News / Africa

Smoking has Immediate, Adverse Effects on the Body

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

The World Health Organization calls tobacco the leading cause of preventable death in the world. In December, the WHO launched a campaign against cigarette smoking in Africa, saying a rapidly growing population is creating “larger and more accessible markets” on the continent for tobacco companies.  

While the risks of cancer and heart disease are generally well-known, smoking has many other effects on the body. 

Smoking has Immediate, Adverse Effects on the Body
Smoking has Immediate, Adverse Effects on the Body

The act of lighting a cigarette and taking a puff is simple enough, but it triggers complex physical changes within the body.  And Dr. Ana Navas-Acien says those changes begin within seconds of inhaling.

“The respiratory airway is very effective in absorbing tobacco and all the tobacco components.  Tobacco has thousands of components, including many toxicants and many carcinogens.  And so these components go immediately to the blood stream, to the respiratory tract,” she says.

Carcinogens are substances that can lead to the development of cancer, a well-known risk of smoking.  But Navas-Acien, professor of preventive medicine at Johns Hopkins University, says cancer can be a long-term consequence of tobacco smoking.  There are much quicker unhealthy effects, such as nicotine addiction.  
    
“The most addictive component in tobacco is nicotine.  And so nicotine reaches the brain in less than a second.  So it’s like a peak of nicotine and that immediate response to nicotine is where the addictive power of tobacco is,” she says.

The brain actually has receptors for nicotine – structures that receive and bind to specific substances.

“So, it’s going to target these receptors that are in the brain cells.  And actually the number of receptors is very small in people who do not smoke.  But in people who start smoking, the number of receptors for tobacco increases.  And the younger people start smoking the higher the number of receptors.  That means the more addictive you are going to be,” the doctor says.  

Heart, veins, arteries

While the body craves nicotine once addiction sets in, damage is being done to the cardiovascular system.

“The cardiovascular disease effects can be quite short term.  There can be changes in the platelets that are very important particles in the blood that form clots.  For example if we have a wound then we need these platelets to aggregate so that there is a clot and we don’t bleed.  However, if we don’t have a wound and if we smoke then the platelets aggregate – that’s going to potentially contribute to the forming of (a) thrombosis and heart attacks, says Navas-Acien.

A blood clot in the wrong place can stop the flow of blood to the heart, triggering a heart attack.

Cigarette smoke also reduces lung function, even if inhaled as second-hand smoke.  

“We have some very good evidence from workers in bars in Scotland.  And their lung function was measured when smoking was allowed in the restaurants.  And then Scotland passed a smoke-free legislation, so it was not possible to smoke in restaurants any longer and in bars any longer.  When their lung function was measured a year later their lung function had improved quite substantially,” she says.


The Johns Hopkins doctor conducted a similar study in Accra, Ghana, measuring the effect of smoking in public places.  People who worked in those environments, whether smokers or not, had higher levels of cigarette chemicals in their bodies.  Another study was done in Nigeria, but those results are pending.

Looking older

The physical changes taking place inside the body can’t readily be seen without the aid of medical equipment. But there are telltale signs on the outside.

She says, “The skin is going to age more rapidly.  For instance, if we take some twins, one who smokes and the other one doesn’t, and they do everything exactly the same, the skin of the person who smokes is going to have more wrinkles and is going to look much older.  Maybe like even 10 years older.”

Then there are the yellow teeth and fingernails and discolored gums.  Navas-Acien says smoking is also very bad for dental health.

She admits quitting is not easy, whether it’s done by sheer willpower or with the help of medication.  It may take numerous attempts to break the nicotine addiction, but the Johns Hopkins professor says it’s worth it.  


You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs