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

Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More