Cigarette Smoking and Disease

Smoking causes 120,000 deaths per year in the UK, (7) as this essay highlights tobacco smoke is the cause of many diseases that add pain and misery into the lives of many, including families and friends of victims. For this reason I feel smoking should be strongly discouraged. There are over 4000 chemicals in the form of particles and gases in tobacco smoke. Some are irritants and 60 are carcinogens. The Environmental Protection Agency has classified tobacco smoke as a class A carcinogen along with asbestos, arsenic and radon gas. (5)

Smokers should be cautious about where and who they inflict smoke upon as the effects of passive smoking are numerous… eye irritation, headache, cough, sore throat, dizziness, nausea and asthma can either be induced or worsened. Just 30 minutes’ exposure to tobacco smoke is enough to reduce coronary blood flow. (5) A review by the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health (SCOTH) concluded that passive smoking is a cause of lung cancer, ischaemic heart disease, respiratory disease, cot death, middle ear disease and asthmatic attacks. (5)

Action on Smoking and Health has calculated that, each year in the UK, about 600 lung cancer deaths and around 12,000 cases of heart disease in non-smokers can be attributed to passive smoking. (5) Half of all the children in the UK are exposed to tobacco smoke at home. Passive smoking in children increases the risk of bronchitis, pneumonia and bronchiolitis. Over 17,000 children under the age of five are admitted to hospital every year because of the effects of passive smoking. (5)

Exposure to passive smoking during pregnancy is a risk factor for low birth weight. A study has shown that babies exposed to their mother’s tobacco smoke before they are born grow up with reduced lung function. (5) This shows that non-smokers are at real risk and need protection. Babies and young children whose parents smoke don’t have the power to make the decision for themselves but desperately need protecting and they should have rights. ‘SCOTH’ say that ‘smoking in public places and workplaces should be restricted on grounds of public health’. Public opinion supports this. (5)

Cigarette smokers are four times more likely to develop Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) than non-smokers. (7) There are many stages of CHD: myocardial infarction, atherosclerosis, embolisms and aneurysms and smoking increases the risk of all of these. If the coronary artery becomes totally blocked, the cardiac muscle that it supplies will die, this is called is called myocardial infarction and it can be fatal. (1) Tobacco smoke is known to increase cholesterol level in the blood. Nicotine acts as a vasoconstrictor and carbon monoxide reduces the cells ability to carry oxygen, all of these can often lead to fatal consequences. (1)

Cancer is rightously related to smoking. Tobacco smoke contains hundreds of proven carcinogens that increase the risk of cancer in smokers. (1) 87% of lung cancer deaths are attributed to smoking. (3) Lung cancer is most commonly associated with smoking but lung cancer can spread to any organ including the bladder, stomach, cervix, pharynx, larynx, mouth and tongue . This occurs by metastasis, the tumour breaks away travels around the body forming a secondary tumour, spreading the cancer and all can be related to smoking. (2)

Emphysema is a chronic infection of the bronchial tubes causing serious breathlessness that is caused by irritants in tobacco smoke. (8) All of these diseases can cause a very slow and painful death. I believe that the treating of patients with tobacco related diseases is a huge drain on the NHS. These funds could be better spent on people who are ill through no fault of their own. Much revenue is being lost by the UK Treasury to illegal smuggling of tobacco products. They are well motivated to protect this by employing additional customs officers rather than backing a policy of abstention. Those who become ex-smokers are more likely to survive to collect their retirement pension – which the government may not have the funds to pay!

Smoking a cigarette for a beginner is a symbolic act. ‘I am no longer my mother’s child, I’m tough, I am an adventurer, I’m not square’… As the force from the psychological symbolism subsides, the pharmacological effect takes over to sustain the habit. (8) I believe that the 25% of adults in the UK that smoke (5) shouldn’t be treated by the NHS for diseases they have inflicted upon themselves entirely through their own choice. Tobacco is unique; it is the only product that kills when used normally, (8) therefore should be treated with extreme care. People can choose whether they endanger their own life but should have respect for the lives of others. 967 words


1) B. Indge, M. Rowland, M. Baker: AQA Human Biology.

2) DK The British Medical Association Family Doctor

3) Don Mackean and Brian Jones: Introduction to Human and Social Biology

4) MBV Roberts: Biology, A Functional Approach

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