Smoking: Be Smart, Don't Start!
Smoking is an unhealthy habit. Research shows the highly addictive habit can be potentially deadly. According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use causes more than seven million deaths worldwide every year. Still, people continue to smoke. For many of those who picked up the nasty habit, quitting can be an uphill battle. In my presentation, I will break down the dangers of smoking and present the findings of my original independent study which showcases some of the reasons why people start smoking, and prove how difficult it can be to quit. I will also investigate the methods used to quit smoking and which are the most effective.
There are roughly six hundred ingredients in a cigarette. When burned, a single cigarette can create more than seven thousand chemicals. These chemicals can be very harmful to the human body. Most of the ingredients are used for things we wouldn’t expect like removing nail polish, cleaning houses, or even paving roads. A cigarette is made using the tobacco leaf which contains Nicotine and a variety of other compounds. When people inhale a cigarette, they are inhaling all of those toxic chemicals into their body. Cigarette smoke contains the poisonous gases carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide as well as trace amounts of Cancer causing radio-active particles (Edelman, 2020). Every time you smoke a cigarette, toxic gasses pass into your lungs then into your bloodstream where they spread to every organ in your body (Nucleus Medical Media, 2012). Our organs are not supposed to be exposed to chemicals because they can cause deadly diseases.
Smoking causes diseases, including diseases that may result in death. Smoking can cause cardiovascular disease. When nicotine flows through the adrenal glands, it causes the release of a hormone that raises blood pressure. This hormone is called Epinephrine. In addition, nicotine and carbon monoxide can damage the lining of the inner walls of your arteries. This can cause Coronary Artery disease in which fatty deposits start building up in the arteries, causing them to start blocking the blood from flowing through the body. Smoking also heightens the risk for blood clots because it causes platelets in the blood to clump together. Smoking increases the risk for peripheral vascular disease in which atherosclerotic plaques block the large arteries in the arms and legs. Smoking also damages two main parts of the lungs; the bronchial tubes, more commonly known as the airways, and the Alveoli, which are small air sacs. Cigarette smoke irritates the lining of the bronchial tubes causing them to swell and make mucus. Small fibers called "Cilia" line the bronchial tubes and push harmful substances out of the lungs. Cigarette smoke also slows down the flow of the Cilia causing some of the smoke and mucus to stay in the lungs. While you are sleeping some of the Cilia repair and once again begin pushing pollutants and mucus out of the lungs. When you wake up, your body tries to remove this material by coughing repeatedly. This is commonly known as smokers cough. Over time, as the Cilia stop working, Chronic Bronchitis develops. The airways become congested with scars and mucus and breathing becomes more challenging. The lungs are now more susceptible to further disease. Cigarette smoke also harms the Alveoli making it harder for Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide to exchange with the blood. Over time so little oxygen can reach the blood that Emphysema may develop (Nucleus Medical Media, 2012). Emphysema is a condition which makes every breath a struggle. Most Emphysema patients are required to wear an oxygen tube under their nose in order to breath (Mannino, 2015) . A combination of Chronic bronchitis and Emphysema is called COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). COPD is the progressive loss of the ability to breath for which there is no cure (Nucleus Medical Media, 2012).
In the human body, healthy cells grow, make new cells, then die. Genetic material inside each cell called DNA controls the process. Toxic chemicals in cigarettes can damage the DNA in the healthy cells. As a result, the damaged cells generate new unhealthy cells which grow out of control and could spread to other parts of the body, causing Cancer. All of these conditions are a possible outcome of smoking, and some of them are critical and may even result in death (Nucleus Medical Media, 2012).
There are other, perhaps less deadly effects of short term cigarette smoking. These include bad breath, fatigue, decrease in energy, reduction in the senses of taste and smell, coughing, yellow teeth, and shortness of breath.
Although smoking can be very harmful to the smoker, it can also harm the people around them. When someone smokes a cigarette, the second hand smoke can be inhaled by people who are around. Second hand smoke contains dozens of harmful chemicals that can endanger the health of those who breathe it in (Government of Canada, 2015). Furthermore, if a pregnant woman smokes during her pregnancy, she exposes her baby to the cigarettes harmful chemicals, putting the baby at risk of low birth weight, miscarriage, preterm delivery, stillbirth, infant death, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (Berlin. I. MD, PhD and Oncken, C. MD, MPH, 2018). Smoking is also dangerous if a mother is breastfeeding. Nicotine passes to the baby through breastmilk and can cause restlessness, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, interrupted sleep, and diarrhea (Bonyata, K. IBCLC, 2018) . Perhaps, the best way to protect everyone against the threat of second hand smoke is simply to not smoke. Period.
Many people who smoke know that smoking is dangerous and can be harmful to their bodies. Lots of people start and do not stop. But why? Why do they choose to continue smoking when they know how harmful it is? Well, in many cases, it is no longer that easy of a choice. A lot of people want to stop, but they cannot. Simply because smoking is extremely addictive. Once you start smoking, it can be extremely difficult to quit (Mayo Clinic, 2020).
Cigarettes contain tobacco. Tobacco contains very high amounts of an extremely addictive chemical called Nicotine. Nicotine that gets into the body through cigarettes activates structures normally present in the brain called receptors. When these receptors are activated, they release a brain chemical called dopamine, which makes you feel good. This pleasure response to dopamine is a big part of the nicotine addiction process. As a result, the brain creates even more nicotine receptors, all of them wanting to be fed with even more Nicotine. Those cravings can become very hard to resist, making it very difficult to quit (Nucleus Medical Media, 2012).
When a smoker stops using tobacco, their body experiences symptoms of withdrawal. Since the Nicotine receptors are not being fed, they start feeling agitated. The symptoms of withdrawal include; nicotine cravings, snacking and weight gain, sleep disturbances, persistent cough, flu like symptoms, mood changes, and constipation (Martin, 2020) . This is because the body was so used to getting the usual Nicotine intake that it was dependent on and it was expecting to get more. But, once those cravings are no longer satisfied the body starts feeling weird and different. Eventually, the cravings start to go away. But quitting can take some time and serious dedication.
After the final cigarette, the body starts working its way back to normal. Twenty minutes after the final cigarette, pulse rate returns to normal. Eight hours after the final cigarette, nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in blood reduce by more than half and oxygen levels return to normal. Forty-eight hours after the final cigarette, carbon monoxide will be phased out of the body, lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris, there is no more nicotine in the body, and the ability to taste and smell is improved. Seventy-two hours after the final cigarette, breathing becomes easier, bronchial tubes begin to relax, and energy levels increase. Twelve weeks after the final cigarette, circulation in the body is improved. Nine months after the final cigarette, coughs, wheezing and breathing problems improve as lung function increases by up to 10 percent. One year after the final cigarette, risk of heart disease is about half compared with that of someone who is still smoking. Fifteen years after the final cigarette, the risk of heart attack falls to the same as someone who has never smoked (Atherton, 2018). This timeline gets interrupted by the next cigarette smoked.
When it comes to quitting smoking, there is no one size fits all. Everyone is different. Thankfully, there are quite a few methods available to assist those who wish to kick the bad habit. These include cold turkey (no specific method used, just tries to quit by using willpower alone), medication (gum, patches, spray), laser therapy, cutting down (having fewer cigarettes every day), acupuncture, and hypnosis (hypnotized to stop smoking) (Brody, 2012). There are other, less conventional methods available. However, the above list is among those tested and proven to be most effective.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, approximately 90 percent of all smokers start before age 18 and the typical age for a new smoker is 13. But why is that? Teenagers are at an age where they want to look cool in front of their friends and peers. There is a misconception that smoking can help them look cool and fit in. Also, their friends may smoke and peer pressure can be a factor in smoking those first few cigarettes (Johnston, Miech, O’Malley, Bachman, Schulenberg, & Patrick, 2019) . But little do they know that once they pick up that cigarette for the first time, it's hard to go back. There are other factors that persuade young teens to smoke. These include; their parents are smokers, they see smoking as a way of rebelling, the tobacco industry has used clever marketing tactics to specifically target teenagers, and Nicotine is a “feel good” drug (American Lung Association).
Not Applicable (this is a survey).
Independent Study Survey Procedure
1. Contacted previous and current smokers, asking them if they would consider taking part in my study survey.
2. Created survey and put together questions.
3. Drove around all of Calgary to each of the participants' houses to get them to sign the informed consent form 2A.
4. Drove back home and had a phone call with each individual taking part in the study survey.
5. Answers were recorded by myself, on a sheet of paper, as each participant had answered.
6. Created pie chart of all findings and results.
7. Inluded and put all the findings and results into presentation.
- 70% of participants surveyed began smoking in their teens, with 13 being the youngest.
- 20% of the participants were 19-24 years of age when they had their first cigarette
- 10% of those surveyed said they were 25 years or older when they smoked their first cigarette
- 90% of the participants began smoking because of peer pressure
- 10% started because they used smoking as a coping mechanism.
- 80% of participants say they regret starting smoking in the first place
- 30% of participants were motivated to quit because of their health
- 20% where simply grossed out and tired of it
- 20% quit to please a loved one
- 20% had quit for their family (pregnancy, children, etc.)
- 10% said cost was the main reason they wanted to quit
- 66.6% of participants used cold turkey to quit (the most successful method)
- Cutting down (16.6%), and using vape pens (16.6%) had also proven to be successful methods for some participants
The most of the participants surveyed had began smoking in their teens.
The majority of the participants had began smoking because of peer pressure and to look cool in front of their friends.
The most of the participants had regretted picking up that first cigarette and starting smoking in the first place.
The motivation to quit was very different with each particpant, with the most being health.
Of all the methods available to help smokers quit, Cold turkey was the most effective for participants who quit smoking.
In conclusion, it is shown through my research and survey presentation that smoking poses a variety of dangers to those who smoke and the people around them. The evidence proves Nicotine contained in cigarettes can cause an addiction that becomes a gross, expensive burden - and Quitting can be a major struggle. And while quitting can be difficult, my survey suggests that the best way to stop is to just stop.
Many of those who have become victims of the dangerous habit have paid with their health, some have lost their lives. When it comes to smoking cigarettes, I would echo the message health professionals have been conveying for decades: Be Smart, Don’t Start!
This scientific knowledge is important to current smokers all around the globe. Smoking is very harmful, and if a smoker understands the harms and the dangers of smoking, and what exactly is happening to the different parts of the body, they may be motivated even more than they could be in the first place to quit the habit. The purpose of this information is to educate other smokers of the world, to motivate them to quit and stop allowing themselves to put toxic chemiclals into their own bodies.
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Ms. Sara Haney (CYSF School Coordinator)
Sarwat Sarhosh (Study Participant)
Kazem Jahanshah (Study Participant)
Guler Ezat (Study Participant)
Hussam Ahmed (Study Participant)
Kaveh Kazemi (Study Participant)
Lyndee Free (Study Participant)
Nicole Larocque-Paksi (Study Participant)
Derin Cheikh (Study Participant)
Harold Orton (Study Participant)
Rafet Sarhosh (Study Participant)