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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs