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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Truth about smoking

Ready to quit?
Other than tobacco, these are some of the things inside a cigarette:
  • Ammonia: Household cleaner
  • Angelica root extract: Known to cause cancer in animals
  • Arsenic: Used in rat poisons
  • Benzene: For making dyes, synthetic rubber
  • Butane gas: Used in lighter fluid
  • Carbon monoxide: Poisonous gas
  • Cadmium: Used in batteries
  • Cyanide: Deadly poison
  • DDT: A banned insecticide
  • Ethyl Furoate: Causes liver damage in animals
  • Lead: Poisonous in high doses
  • Formaldehyde: Used to preserve dead specimens
  • Methoprene: Insecticide
  • Megastigmatrienone: Chemical naturally found in grapefruit juice
  • Maltitol: Sweetener for diabetics
  • Napthalene: Ingredient in mothballs
  • Methyl isocyanate: Its accidental release killed 2000 people in Bhopal, India, in 1984
  • Polonium: Cancer-causing radioactive element
How to stop
Smoking is a slow albeit silent killer. First, it kills your performance. Then, it kills your wallet. Later, it kills your relationships. Finally, it kills you.
Teen smoking is an over-publicised issue. Yet I feel that the results get scarrier by the day. If you have any friends who are trying out smoking or worse still, addicted to smoking, be a good friend and give them this article to read. Trust me, they'll thank you in years to come. Okay, the results may not be proven overnight, but it is bound to change a young mind.
Benjamin Franklin once said, "Never leave till tomorrow what you can do today." Act now before it is too late. Here are some tips to make your journey a smoother ride:
  • Attend anti-smoking talks or support groups.
  • Speak to ex-smokers for advice.
  • Attend counselling sessions.
  • Fill your time with healthy activities.
  • Remind yourself of the dangers and illnesses that can be contracted from smoking.
  • Use nicotine patches.
  • Stop hanging out with friends who encourage you to smoke.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: Get support from family and friends. Ask for help, you'll be surprised at their enthusiasm to help. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Get help now! Always remember, while there is smoke on one end of a cigarette, there is a fool on the other end.
Is smoking cool?
I interviewed a few teenagers aged between 13 and 21 who are smokers and asked how they felt. Althought it is forbidden by law to smoke under the age of 18, already many schoolchildren are addicted to nicotine in cigarettes.
Most of them started smoking because they were influenced by friend, especially during exam time or when going through family problems. They used this drug to release tension and relax.
Sam, 14, (all names have been changed to protect their identities) told me that he started smoking when he was 10.
During that time, many of his friend started smoking and they encouraged him to try as well. The peer pressure and excitement at trying something new made him more eager to start.
Now after four years of smoking, his perception of smoking has changed. He doesn't feel cool while smoking, but he just can't stop.
"I can feel my stamina is fading, especially when I play football," he complains. While others are enjoying the game, he is already gasping for breath after half an hour.
Currently, he keeps his smoking habit from his parents. He only shares it with his brothers and close friends who have advised him to stop. They suggested that he try chewing nicotine gums or do something else than smoke during stressful times.
Hazim, who has just finished his SPM exam, started smoking when he was in Standard Five. He tried it with his friends out of boredom one day. Althouh they were aware that smoking could cause cancer, they couldn’t imagine how it could affect their lives.
Although smoking made him feel more mature, Hazim also feels guilty as he has become a bad role model for his younger siblings. He said it's hard for him to stop smoking when his friends are still on the habit.
Hazim believes that he could quit if he's involved in a serious relationship with a girl who doesn't like a smoking partner.
Marey used to smoke because she wanted to belong to a group of teen smokers. She thought this was the only way to befriend them. However, tired of having to lie to her family all the time, she finally quit smoking. She is still friends with her group and has even inspired some of them to quit smoking as well.
  • Females smoke more than males. (According to Women&Health magazine)
  • There are around 1.3 billion smokers worldwide. (According to WHO)
  • 10,000 Malaysians die a year of smoked-related diseases.
For the sake of your health
WHY would anyone want to be a smoker? I decided to talk to Dr Sumathi, 34, who runs a polyclinic in Malacca.
I asked her why people smoke. Dr Sumathi said people smoke because of stress, being influenced by advertising and also due to peer pressure.
She also explained that non-smokers who inhale secondary cigarette smoke are passively smoking. It is called involuntary or second-hand smoking.
The non-smoker breathes in "side stream" smoke from the burning tip of the smoker's cigarette and "mainstream" smoke that has been exhaled by the smokers. When people smoke, the air around them becomes polluted. This is called "environmental tobacco smoke" (ETS).
Dr Sumathi mentioned the effects of ETS on passive smokers. Some of the immediate effects are eye irritations, headaches, coughs, sore throats, dizziness, and nausea.
An individual with asthma will experience a significant decline in lung function if he or she is exposed to ETS.
Short-term exposure to ETS has measurable effects on the heart. In the long term, non-smokers, who are passive smokers, have a 25 per cent increased risk of heart disease and lung cancer.
Passive smoking also causes respiratory disease, cot deaths, middle ear disease and asthmatic attacks among children.
Asked about the chemicals in a cigarette, Dr Sumathi said that there are 4,000 toxic chemicals that smokers inhale and exhale.
"One is ammonia, which helps you absorb nicotine and keeps you hooked on smoking," she said.
Then there is tar, a sticky brown substance which gets deposited in lungs and the respiratory system, and later causes lung and throat cancers.
Nicotine is more addictive than heroin or cocaine. It also reaches the brain within 10 seconds of inhalation.
Benzene is a cancer-causing chemical which is used to make pesticides, detergent, and petrol.
Methoprene is used to get rid of fleas on your pets.
When I asked about the health effects of smoking, she identified cancer as the main one. This is directly caused by benzene, benzopyrene and tar. Other health effects are bronchitis and emphysema.
Dr Sumathi added that every eight seconds someone dies of tobacco use. Smoking causes 80 per cent of all deaths from lung cancer, 80 per cent of all deaths from bronchitis and emphysema, and 17 per cent from heart disease.
The sad part, the doctor said, was that more than 80 per cent of smokers pick up the habit as teenagers.
Dr Sumathi said that to curb smoking, smokers must think of its effects on others and themselves.
"Peers should advise their friends to stop smoking. Shops must not sell cigarettes to teenagers below 18," she said,
"The Government should increase the number of anti-smoking campaigns."
She advised teenage smokers to opt for healthy activities such as sports, indoor games, watching TV and reading books.
What you need to know
Q: Is smoking hazardous to health?
A: The unanimous answer is "yes".
  • In 1962, the British Royal College of Physicians established a link between smoking and bad health.
  • In 1970, a senior medical consultant in the United States gave strong health warnings that "smoking is harmful to health".
  • In 1978, World Health Organization experts announced that "smoking is a major cause of ill-health and premature death but this is avoidable by giving up smoking or not smoking at all".
Q: What are the harmful substances to be found in tobacco?
A: The most well-known and most dangerous substances are carbon monoxide, nicotine and tar.
Q: Would cigarettes with a lower tar and nicotine content be less hazardous?
A: No. Smokers compensate by smoking more and inhaling more smoke, thus taking in the same amount of these harmful substances.
Q: Are filter cigarettes harmless?
A: No. Filters do not prevent carbon monoxide and other harmful substances passing through. Smokers of filtered cigarettes run the same risk of diseases as smokers of unfiltered cigarettes.
Q: Do cigars and pipes carry a lower health risk?
A: Cigars and pipes, in fact, have a higher tar and nicotine content. Moreover, smoke from cigars and pipes is more concentrated and more dangerous to non-smokers.
Q: What is "smoke-free" tobacco?
A:Q It is tobacco that is not smoked but chewed or carried inside the mouth for long periods of time or sniffed. It is usually available in soft lumps, called snuff, cut into small pieces; as leaves for chewing; or as ground, dried snuff in powder form.
Q: Is smoke-free tobacco a safe substitute for ordinary tobacco?
A: No. It causes cancer of the mouth and tooth decay as it contains all the cancer-causing substances, including nicotine, which also makes it addictive.

Q: What risks are faced by mothers who smoke?
A: Mothers who smoke and are taking oral contraceptives run 10 times the risk of heart attack, stroke and clotting of the blood in the legs. Health risks are higher in those with high blood pressure or high body cholesterol. Women who smoke reach menopause between one and three years earlier than non-smokers.
Q: What risks are faced by pregnant women who smoke and by their unborn babies?
A: When a pregnant woman smokes, her baby also smokes. Carbon monoxide and nicotine are carried through the blood stream from the mother to the baby, leading to lower oxygen intake and higher pulse rate. Such babies risk being born prematurely or underweight, and when they start walking, they may show signs of lack of co-ordination and general ill-health. In developing countries, these risks are even higher as mothers are likely to come from poorer families, to be anaemic and have a higher fertility rate.
Q: What is "passive smoking"?
A: Passive smoking is involuntary or forced smoking when non-smokers have to breathe in smoke-filled air. Non-smokers find themselves forced to smoke against their will.
Q: How is this dangerous?
A: Tobacco smoke has certain chemical properties that cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat to non-smokers sitting with smokers in enclosed areas, such as offices, homes and public places. This is a real health hazard. It has also been shown that the incidence rate of lung cancer for women whose husbands smoke is higher than that for women whose husbands do not.
Q: What are the benefits to be gained from giving up smoking?
A: Being rid of bad breath and foul smells which stick to the hair, clothes and curtains; being rid of stained teeth and fingers; eliminating the risk of fire to homes, table cloths, furniture, mattresses, carpets, and sofas; not having to apologise for smoking, and being rid of a very costly addictive habit.
Source: National Cancer Institute, US National Institute of Health (

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