While it’s common knowledge that smoking harms you and your loved ones, only numbers and facts can show in detail the impact smoking has on our surroundings. To highlight the importance of the topic: every second adult smokes in Macedonia – to be exact, 48.4% smoke regularly.
Tobacco is an essential factor in poverty worldwide as it diverts focus from savings being spent on basic needs like food and housing. Still, it’s also responsible for 8 million smoking-related deaths. WHO defines that 7 million of those originate from direct tobacco use and 1.2 million from non-smokers being exposed to secondhand smoke.
A Cigarette contains over 7000 chemicals; many ingredients are poisonous and over 60 cancerous. To name a few, there are Carbon monoxide, Acetone (found in nail polish remover), Arsenic, and Pesticides (found in rat poison and used to kill insects) in manufactured cigarettes.
What happens to the environment?
There is an incredibly long list of why smoking isn’t ethical and its shocking environmental footprint. To sum up a few of the main issues – beginning in the country of origin and then following the path of production;
Firstly, 5% of the world’s deforestation is directly connected to tobacco cultivation. Every year, an area twice the size of the island of Barbados is used to grow tobacco (200,000 hectares).
Secondly, the packaging of cigarettes contributes about 2 million tons to the general waste yearly, which fits in about 9433 freight wagons – for the packages only!
An addition to this are Cigarette buds: Cigarette buds, the most discarded waste product in the world, take 15 years to decompose. This is especially bad for the environment as toxins like Arsenic and Benzoyl are set free during the process and destroy soil and water. They change whole ecosystems by killing fishes and other organisms! (don’t throw your cigarette buds to the ground).
What happens to your body?
Smoking harms nearly every single organ in your body and is a significant factor for chronic illness, e.g., in the cardiovascular system, respiratory diseases and cancer. It comes easy to downplay those illnesses but keep in mind this will mainly affect the people close to you, having to care for you, who will be hurting after all.
Nearly 9/10 of lung cancers are caused by smoking cigarettes, and the risk of getting lung cancer is increased by 25 times. There are two main reasons why cigarettes increase cancer of any type in your body: Firstly, poison in cigarette smoke weakens your body’s immune system, which averts the focus from fighting cancerous cells. Secondly, cigarette poisons can change a cell’s DNA, resulting in uninhibited growth.
Especially during adolescence stage will smoking harm you, as the brain isn’t developed before roughly the age of 25. It increases the risk for future addictions and actively harms parts of the brain that control attention, learning, and impulse control.
What happens to your friends and family?
Passive smoking harms the body at similar rates (relative to concentration) like actual smoking. It consists of mainstream and side stream smoke which describes the smoke exhaled by the smoker and the smoke that comes from burning cigarette ends.
Secondhand smoke is much more damaging to children than to adults due to different developing stages; studies show that children in smokers’ homes get sick more often, especially with lung-related diseases, and their lungs are less developed than children in non-smoker homes. Severe and frequent asthma attacks are more common and can trigger Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
But even in adults, health risks increase drastically as non-smokers exposed to smoke at home or work have a higher risk of lung cancer by 20-30%, ever with the amount of exposure.
Ways to reduce health issues if you are a smoker to non-smoking relatives and co-workers– don’t allow smoking in closed rooms e.g., in the car, daycare facilities, or at home as well as avoid restaurants where smoking is allowed – even “No-smoking-sections” don’t protect from secondhand smoke.
Stopping smoking can be very difficult though it’s incredibly worth it at any age regardless of how much you have been smoking in time and quantity. To put it into perspective, more than ten times as many US citizens have died from smoking cigarettes than fighting in all American wars. There are loads of free websites and coaching for people to receive support from professionals, including free quitting plans – just one Google search away! You can find help in counseling and medication like nicotine replacement products or tablets.
To have a slight motivational boost, not only will you save loads of money (and will stop smelling), but your body will thank you even more: after 48 hours, your smelling and tasting will improve, in 1-9 months coughing and short breath will start reducing, your skin will get more elastic and your nails will lose discoloration, after three years your risk of a heart attack has decreased to that of a non-smoker, five years without smoking bisects the chance of getting mouth-, throat- or esophagus cancer. This isn’t even half of the benefits.
One last thing: If you manage to go for a whole week, you are nine times as likely to quit successfully – so why don’t you challenge yourself and try for a week?