What is Smoking?
The tobacco was used by Native Americans in North and South America since ancient times. It was brought to Europe Christopher Columbus and tobacco smoking was then introduced to the rest of the world by Spain via trade. Tobacco is an agricultural product of the genus Nicotiana. Tobacco smoke contains the psychoactive alkaloids nicotine and harmane which have properties of producing euphoria for a while.
Symptoms Caused by Smoking
Nicotine is addictive so many smokers find it difficult or even impossible to cease smoking.
A) Direct health hazards of smoking tobacco:
1) Myorcardial infarction or heart attack;
2) Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – including breathlessness, wheezing, persistent cough, emphysema and chronic bronchitis;
3) Higher cholesterol levels – including increased levels of fibrinogen and platelets which cause blood clots;
4) Asthma, pneumonia and other respiratory problems;
5) Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS);
6) Lung and breast cancers due to cell mutation;
7) Skin disorders like Psoriasis;
8) Panic and Anxiety disorders.
B) Indirect hazards of smoking tobacco:
1) Traffic accidents due to poor concentration;
3) Accidental fires from cigarettes butts.
Diagnosis of Smoking (presence of nicotine)
Traces of nicotine can be found in urine for nearly 3 days after the last smoke, so a urine test can be carried out which gives qualitative results for nicotine.
Thin layer chromatography (TLC): In this test, mixtures are separated by using an absorbent material like aluminum oxide or silica on testing sheets.
Causes of Smoking Habit
A majority of the world’s population knows the ill effects of smoking and the horrendous health problems it can create. Yet, why do people smoke? There are certain factors which cause the onset and continuation of smoking.
A) Causes for onset of smoking:
To project an image: This can be best explained through illustration. For example, professional wrestler James Fullington, nicknamed “The Sandman” is a chronic smoker in order to project an image of “toughness”. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who created the world’s most famous detective Sherlock Holmes, depicts his character smoking a pipe. The reason explained in the book being – “to keep his overactive brain occupied during the dull London days, when nothing happened”. Other celebrities like Bing Crosby the newscaster and Winston Churchill have always been seen smoking in public places. Leaving celebrities aside, the smoking habit is common among teenagers who wish to create a “better” image of themselves before the opposite sex.
Advertising techniques: In the 1950s and 1960s, advertisers of cigarettes did not have to add the warning, “Cigarette smoking is injurious to health” as is mandatory today. So the various companies, especially in the U.S. used celebrities and catchy slogans in order to attract the public. The slogans: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should!” and “I’d Walk a Mile for a Camel” of Winston and Camel brands were very popular during this era. Even today, advertising of cigarette is rampant all over the world through billboards, magazines and dailies, as sponsors of sporting events, at stores and gas stations, television, etc.
Peer pressure: Surveys show that teenagers sometimes begin their smoking habit due to peer pressure. In fact, peer pressure is a significant cause of smoking across all age groups (not just teenagers) and genders due to intrapersonal factors; but it is more so in ages 12 to 15 years.
Parental smoking: Children of smoking parents are more likely to smoke than children with non-smoking parents. Studies have shown that even if one parent smoked, the chance of teenage children resorting to smoking was greater. Surveys show that restrictive home smoking policies lowered the likelihood of school students starting to smoke cigarettes.
Visual media: Depiction of smoking by famous film and television stars is another major reason for initiation of adolescent smoking. In films to be released in the United States with a G, PG or PG-13 rating, depiction of tobacco smoking is now restricted for this very reason.
B) Causes of “continued” smoking
Stimulation/depression: Nicotine is both a stimulant and a depressant. Some smokers believe that the depressant effect of smoking calms their nerves. Others believe that it gives them a “kick” or a “high”. Of course, these mood-swings are affected other factors like environment and reasons for the smoking habit.
Addiction/pleasure: As higher doses of nicotine act as a stimulant, an occasional cigarette slowly turns into an addiction. This then leads to chain-smoking, which is a self-destructive habit.
Social smoking: Many a time, smoking is a way of impressing others at a party. It is done to create an image.
Leisure: Studies in the U.S. have shown that cigarette sales are higher in the summer vacation and leisure time, and lower sales in the winter months.
Religious views: Sharing a tobacco pipe is a common ritual among some Native American tribes as it is considered a sacred part of their religion. But today, most religions ban smoking for the betterment of the community.
Types – Methods or Modes of Smoking
A) Active smoking: This involves the direct inhalation of tobacco smoke by a person using various tobacco-based products. They include:
Cigarettes: Cigarette smoking is the most common form of tobacco consumption. The smoke of cigarettes is relatively mild. Cigarettes also contain a number of additives to enhance taste. The Indian beedi, a crude form of cigarettes, is very popular among the lower income groups as compared to cigarettes.
Roll-Your-Own: Roll-Your-Owns, also called rollies or roll ups, is very popular in European countries. These are prepared by the smoker from loose tobacco, cigarette papers and filters bought separately. They are more cost-effective than readymade cigarettes.
Cigar: Cigars come in many shapes and sizes and are generally puffed, not inhaled. Cigars are available in 2 categories in reference to color, “Natural” and “Maduro” depending on the fermentation process of the tobacco used to enhance taste.
Pipe: A smoking pipe consists of a small bowl-shaped chamber to hold the tobacco and a thin or bit that acts as a mouthpiece. Pipes are made from a variety of materials clay, wood, glass, bamboo, metal, etc. The tobacco used in pipes is chemically treated to change smell and taste.
Hookah: A hookah (or sheesha) is a type of water pipe which filters the tobacco smoke through water. Today, tobacco used in hookah comes in various flavors like apple, grape, double apple, orange, strawberry, cherry, mango, vanilla, melon, banana, cola, coconut and cappuccino.
B) Passive smoking: Passive (also called involuntary, environmental or secondhand) smoking occurs when the exhaled and ambient smoke from one person’s cigarette is inhaled by other people. This involves inhalation of toxins like nicotine and cotinine present in tobacco smoke by a non-smoker in the vicinity. This can lead to disorders like asthma, myocardial infarction, other cardiovascular diseases, acute-chronic respiratory problems, middle ear infection, lower birth weight babies, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), etc.
Treatment of Disorders caused by Smoking
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT): A variety of nicotine-containing tobacco substitutes are suggested to those who wish to reduce smoking or abstain. They also temporarily lessen the withdrawal symptoms. The most popular products used are nicotine-based gum, lozenges and patches.
Medications: Non-nicotine-based medications are also used, like medicines containing bupropion and varenicline.
Peer support: To encourage cessation of smoking there are various support groups and telephonic quit-lines available for smokers; that help with the psychological side of the treatment, advice on how to reduce frequency of smokes, suggest proper diet and exercises.
Family support: The support and encouragement of the family members with possible withdrawal symptoms is imperative in avoiding continued addiction.
Living with Smoking Disorders
Two factors are involved in a person’s risk of being afflicted by a smoking-related disease – the number of years a person continues to smoke and the quantity of cigarettes smoked. Nicotine addiction can occur as soon as five months after the start of smoking. Both active and passive smoking can be very injurious to a person’s health. Studies have shown that the mortality rates are more than 40% in those smoking 10 cigarettes a day, 70% in those smoking 10–20 a day and almost 90% in those smoking 21–39 cigarettes a day. Also, smoking “light” or “low tar” cigarettes does not reduce the risks. In old age, ex-smokers lead a slightly healthier life than continued smokers.
Prevention of Smoking Habit
A number of nations have taken certain measures to prevent the habit of smoking and the resultant health hazards:
Legislation for age: In most countries around the world it is illegal to sell tobacco-based products to minors as smoking should be an informed decision. Most countries impose heavy fines for violation of these laws.
Taxation: In some countries, the governments have introduced heavy excise taxes on cigarettes in order to reduce the consumption of cigarettes. Money collected from the cigarette taxes are frequently used to pay for tobacco-use prevention programs, thus self-financing the prevention endeavor.
Restrictions on advertising: In Australia, the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 prohibits tobacco advertising except as sponsors of international sporting events. In Europe, all tobacco advertising and sponsorship on television, Internet, print media and radio are banned.
Package warnings: Countries like European Union, Turkey, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Thailand, Iceland, India, Brazil, etc have also imposed the printing of warning-messages upon cigarette packs. Cards are also inserted into cigarette packs in Canada that explain different methods of quitting smoking.
Restriction of smoking areas: Several countries in the world have legislated against smoking in workplaces as well as outdoor public areas like parks and gardens, public transport facilities, etc. Restaurateurs are permitted to build designated smoking areas, separate from the non-smoking section.
The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention describes tobacco use as “the single most important preventable risk to human health.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) forecasts that by 2030, ten million people a year will die of smoking-related illness, with the largest increase to be among women. WHO forecasts the 21st century’s mortality rate will be ten times that of the 20th century.