General Health Friday May 10, 2013

Smoking: what really goes into a cigarette?

Smoking - the hard facts

Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you as well as the people around you, yet cigarettes are the single most traded item on the planet and has become one of the world’s largest industries. With smoking being the biggest cause of death and illness in the UK, it currently leads to over 100,000 deaths each year and it is estimated to cost society £14bn a year.

The negative health implications linked to smoking are endless: heart disease, cancer, asthma, stroke and lung disease, are just some of the illnesses associated with smoking. But not only is it bad for your health but it is also bad for your image; the tar found in cigarettes can stain teeth and hands, as well as make hair dry and eyes look sore.

From years of medical studies we are aware that smoking is bad for you and there is certainly no getting away from it when the packet features the words ‘SMOKING KILLS’; so why is it that we ignore these warnings? Is it is because we don’t know what goes into the average cigarette or is it because it is a habit that we simply can’t break away from?

What really goes into a cigarette?

Over two billion people in the world are smokers, which is around a third of the world’s population. Although the number of people smoking in Britain has halved over the last 50 years due to numerous health awareness campaigns, many are still spending thousands of pounds each year on cigarettes, with very few actually knowing what goes into them.

Shockingly a single cigarette contains over 4,000 chemicals, around 70 of which are known to be cancerous, according to cancer research.

Most of us are aware that cigarettes contain nicotine, tobacco, tar and other toxic chemicals but what are they and what implications can they have on our health?

Here is a breakdown of some of the most well-known chemicals often found in cigarettes:

Nicotine- found naturally in tobacco, nicotine is a strong poisonous drug that in its purest form could kill a human with a single drop, and is just as addictive as heroin or cocaine. Often used in pesticides and bug sprays this is a toxic chemical and takes just 10 seconds for the drug to reach your brain from inhaling cigarette smoke.

Tar- a mixture of lots of chemicals, this forms a sticky brown residue that sticks to the lungs and stains smoker’s fingers and teeth.

Tobacco- a green, leafy plant that is grown in warm climates. After it is picked, it is dried, ground up, and used in different ways. It can be smoked in a cigarette, pipe, or cigar.

As well as tobacco, other chemicals are added to form a cigarette. More than often, these are toxic. Here is the list of harmful chemicals that are typically found in cigarettes:

  • Arsenic- often used in wood preservatives
  • Cadmium- used in batteries
  • Chromium- used to manufacture dye, paints and alloys
  • Acrolein- used to be used as a chemical weapon
  • Polonium 210- this is a highly radioactive element
  • Carbon Monoxide- found in car exhausts and is extremely dangerous
  • Ammonia- a chemical used to make fertilisers and explosives

How can you stop?

Stopping smoking is not an easy task as the nicotine in cigarettes is extremely addictive. ‘Will Power’ and smoking supplements such as nicotine patches will certainly help but social pressures can be one of the main reasons that we fail to quit.

Withdrawal symptoms are perfectly normal and can often include:

  • Flu-like aches and discomfort
  • Cravings for a smoke
  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems
  • Fatigue

However, these are short term symptoms and they will pass after a few days. Here are a few tips in order to help you to stop smoking for good:

Tell everyone that you are giving up smoking - friends and family make great support systems and may help you resist the temptation of having a cigarette.

Set a date for stopping - and stick to it.

Write a list of the reasons why you want to stop - put this list somewhere you can see it every day and this will remind you of why you want to stop

Get rid of ashtrays, lighters, and all cigarettes - if temptation is around you, you are more likely to give in to your cravings and have a cigarette

Be prepared for some withdrawal symptoms - but know that they will pass

Be aware of situations in which you are most likely to want to smoke-in particular, drinking alcohol is often associated with failing in an attempt to stop smoking as is social occasions

Take one day at a time. Mark off each successful day on a calendar. It is not going to be easy but once you have stopped, you will feel great!

There are also treatments that could help you stop smoking for good. Champix is one of the latest and most effective treatments to help you stop smoking, with people being twice more likely to give up using Champix than with no help at all. It provides the body with varenicline, helping to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping smoking.

Visit /smoking for more information and organise a consultation with one of HealthExpress’s qualified doctors to get advice.

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