The Cost of Smoking

On average about 13 million adults in the U. K (about 25% of the population) smoke cigarettes. Smoking causes 22% of all male deaths and 11% of all female deaths in the U. K. Giving up smoking can reduce the risk of developing smoking related illnesses. After 10-15 years of giving up, an ex-smokers risk of developing lung cancer is only slightly higher than that of a life-long non-smoker. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, some of the most harmful of these being: acetone, ammonia, benzene, cadmium, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, lead, nicotine, and tar.

Smoking costs an individual physically, socially, emotionally and financially. Not only does smoking affect the smoker, but it also affects the environment, the people around them and it is one of the causes of famine in third world countries. Smoking seriously affects health. Tobacco smoke destroys elastin, so blood vessels are elastically reduced, making them narrower. It encourages blood clots to form more easily and it raises blood pressure, putting more strain on the heart muscle. It also contains carbon monoxide, which irreversibly combines with haemoglobin, reducing the amount of haemoglobin available for the transport of oxygen.

Common symptoms in smokers include: wheezing, shortness of breath, lack of energy, poor concentration, nicotine-stained fingers, premature wrinkling, stained teeth, infertility, and poor circulation. Smoking also increases the chances of more serious diseases, such as: lung cancer, bronchitis, emphysema, stroke, heart disease and gangrene. One of the main forms of disease evolved from habitual smoking is cancer. Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells in and organ or tissues go out of control, growing at an exponential rate and increasing in number.

When these cells grow out of control they form a mass, this mass is called a tumour. Some tumours grow locally while other tumours such as malignant tumours (cancer) can invade the normal tissue around them and destroy it, and spread to further parts of the body. The most likely form of cancer that a smoker is likely to develop is lung cancer. In lung cancer the inhalation of smoke damages the cleansing processes in which the lung protects itself from injury, the cilia found on the lining the bronchi are destroyed and the lining of the bronchi thickens in an attempt to protect the delicate underlying tissues from damage.

The lung can no longer keep itself clean; chemicals (such as carcinogens) inhaled from the smoke get trapped in the mucus on the surface of the lining. These chemicals can alter the nature of the cells and continue to do so until cancer develops. Another potential disease for smokers is heart disease. There are two main types of heart disease: coronary heart disease (also called atherosclerotic heart disease) and ischaemic heart disease. In both cases plaque builds up in the arterial walls obstructing the lumen, and therefore reducing the blood supply to the heart.

This eventually ends up blocking the blood flow to the heart, starving the myocardium of oxygen, resulting in a heart attack (or myocardial infarction). People can be completely oblivious to the fact that they have heart disease until they get a heart attack. Another serious disease that smokers have an increased chance in developing is bronchitis. Bronchitis is a pulmonary disease, which is caused by the inflammation of the bronchi of the lungs. The inhaled smoke destroys the cilia on the epithelial tissue lining the trachea. It irritates the bronchi and the bronchioles, encouraging the production of mucus.

The excess mucus cannot be cleared properly because the cilia are damaged; this results in the sufferer having a persistent cough that lasts for at least three months in two consecutive years. This is called chronic bronchitis (or long-term bronchitis). There is also another type of bronchitis called acute bronchitis (or short-term bronchitis). This is also a serious disease as it can result in respiratory failure. Another common problem that smokers are likely to develop is emphysema; which is a breathing disorder caused by reduced gaseous exchange in the lungs.

Chemicals in the inhaled smoke destroy the elastin tissue in the alveoli, causing a loss of elasticity in the lungs. The alveoli cannot expand as air enters the lungs as the elastin tissue in them has been destroyed. The smoke also increases the number of phagocytes, which digest the alveolar tissue, reducing the surface area required for gaseous exchange. Smoking can also lead to fertility problems. For example, impotence in men, this is due to the reduced blood supply to the penis.

Smoking also causes women to become infertile, therefore risking their ability to have children, at the cost of a cigarette. Some cases of smoking also result in amputation. The list of health problems smokers develop is endless. Smoking also affects an individual financially. An individual may smoke up to 20 cigarettes each day. That’s about ? 4 each day spent on cigarettes. If an individual were to buy a packet of cigarettes each day of the year at this price, they would have spent ? 1460 by the end of the year. If they were to do this for five years the grand total would be ? 7300, which is enough to buy a car.

If an individual were to smoke for the whole duration of their lifetime, this would probably be enough to buy an expensive car, such as a Mercedes. And that’s just for the cigarettes. In order to smoke fuel is needed; therefore the individual will have to spend money purchasing lighters on a regular basis too. So smoking is also a complete waste of money as well as being a hazard to an individual’s health. Smoking also affects an individual socially. For example, if there were a smoking ban in a pub the individual would have to stand outside in the cold.

Smoking will also make the individual and the people around them smell of cigarettes. Smoking also pollutes the environment. Smoking in public (a restaurant for example) will result in the people around the smoker being forced to passively smoke. This is a serious problem for those with asthma, as it can cause pain in the lungs and even worse, an asthma attack. If the smoker has children at home, then their children also passively smoke, this damages the child’s health as much as the smokers. This will result in poor health of the child, giving the child the potential to develop respiratory problems and diseases such as bronchitis.

Children are also more likely to smoke if their parents do, therefore the child may continue to damage their health furthermore. So smoking doesn’t just damage the smoker’s health, but the health of others too. A lot of smokers also tend to litter, chucking their used cigarettes and single use lighters on the ground, polluting the environment. Not only does smoking affect the people immediately around the smoker, but those in third world countries too. Valuable farmland is given up to grow tobacco plants, instead of being used to grow crops.

The land in which the tobacco plants are grown will never be able to be used again for growing crops as tobacco plants rapidly uptake nutrients from the soil, causing it to become infertile. In order to make this land fertile, fertiliser would have to be added to the soil. This comes with its own problems; if there are any rivers, streams, ponds or lakes nearby, the addition of fertiliser will cause eutrophication, killing aquatic animals such as fish, which could be a good source of food for a local village. Tobacco farming therefore damages the environment and causes famine in third world countries.

Despite all of this, smokers still continue to smoke. This is because of their high exposure to the drug nicotine. Nicotine has powerful addictive effects as it alters two chemicals in the brain: dopamine and noradrenaline. When a smoker inhales the cigarette smoke the nicotine takes affect on the brain very quickly, giving the smoker a false sense of pleasure. Smokers seem to find this pleasurable as it satisfies the craving from the previous cigarette.

Bibliography: http://www. givingupsmoking. co. uk/why_give_up/inside_a_smoker/ (Paragraph 1, lines 2-5) http://www.givingupsmoking. co. uk/why_give_up/cigarette_smoke/ (Paragraph 1, lines 6-8) CGP, AS-Level biology the revision guide, page 78 (Paragraph 2, lines 1-3) http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Cancer (Paragraph 3, lines 2-6) http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Lung_cancer (Paragraph 3, lines 7-13) http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Bronchitis (Paragraph 5, lines 2-3) CGP, AS-Level biology the revision guide, page 78 (Paragraph 5, lines 3-6) http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Bronchitis (Paragraph 5, lines 7-9) CGP, AS-Level biology the revision guide, page 78 (Paragraph 6, lines 2-6).

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