|Smoking: Health Hazards
FACT: Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States.
This means that many of those who lose their lives because of smoking-related illnesses could probably live much longer if they didn't smoke. Smoking can damage some of the most important organs in your body, including the lungs, heart and brain. The poisonous chemicals in cigarettes can cause emphysema (a lung disease) and bronchitis (inflammation of air passages to the lungs), heart disease, heart attacks, stroke (an interruption of the blood flow to the brain) and cancer.
Here are some other effects that smoking can have on your health:
- Hearing and vision loss
- Chronic coughing, more phlegm (mucus) in your mouth and asthma
- Decrease in athletic performance. Think about it: you can't run as fast or jump as high if you can't breathe properly!
- Cancer of the mouth, gum disease, tooth decay, and yellow staining of the teeth
- Peptic ulcers, pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer, kidney and liver damage
- Decreased circulation in the fingers and toes
- Yellowing of fingernails and toenails
- Bad breath
Another problem is that smoking is usually not a one-shot deal. It can take only weeks or days for new smokers to become addicted. Why? Because cigarettes contain a drug called Nicotine, the ingredient that causes the addiction. Nicotine is a stimulant, which means it makes you feel a little hyper. The more you smoke, the more you want to continue to smoke. Your body becomes physically dependent on the drug and begins to crave it. This is what makes it so difficult to quit smoking once you've started.
Here are some other interesting (and shocking) facts about smoking:
- Approximately 1500 kids are killed each year by fires in the home that were caused by cigarettes. The tobacco industry has the science to make a self-extinguishing cigarette, but they don't use it! Why?
- Cigarette butts are among the biggest causes of pollution on beaches.
- Sometimes it seems like all celebs smoke, but most don't! In fact, celebs who have recently made anti-tobacco statements include: Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Jackie Chan, 'NSYNC, Alicia Silverstone, Garth Brooks, Tyra Banks, and Christy Turlington
Even if you don't smoke, just being around people who are smoking can cause health problems. "Secondhand smoke" (also called "sidestream smoke") from someone else's cigarette can be just as dangerous as smoking itself.
Here are some facts about secondhand smoke:
- It kills about 3,000 non-smokers each year from lung cancer.
- It causes up to 300,000 lung infections (like pneumonia and bronchitis) in babies and young children each year.
- It causes babies to be at risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
- In a crowded restaurant, smoking can produce six times the pollution of a busy highway.
- Pets suffer too! It can cause leukemia (a type of cancer) in cats and enlarged hearts in dogs.
- It causes 30 times as many lung cancer deaths as all the different kinds of pollution combined.
- It causes wheezing, coughing, colds, earaches and asthma attacks.
- It fills the air with many of the same poisons found in the air around toxic waste dumps.
- It ruins the smell and taste of food.
- It causes reddening, itching, and watering of the eyes.
Finally, you may have heard about smokeless tobacco, a sticky substance that you chew, kind of like gum, with a tobacco flavor. This product is also known as "chewing tobacco," "spit tobacco," and "snuff." Many people think that smokeless tobacco isn't harmful to your health the way cigarettes are. Not true! Chewing this stuff can cause bleeding gums, sores in the mouth that never heal, and cancer of the mouth. In addition, it may cause bad breath, hiccups, dizziness, nausea and yellow staining of the teeth. Sounds gross, huh? Like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco contains Nicotine, which makes it addictive.
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