There are many risks known to be associated with smoking. Lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease are certainly among them. However tobacco has other risks not as widely publicized in the media.
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Lung Cancer is the one disease most smokers fear most. Smokers are 20 times more likely to die of lung cancer than non-smokers. Lung cancer kills 1.3 million people every year.
Emphysema. This is a nightmarish disease, characterized as a loss of elasticity in the lung tissue, which makes the lungs incapable of bring in sufficient air to the body. It is an irreversible condition. Tobacco is the leading cause of emphysema. In fact, 90 percent of all cases of emphysema are caused by smoking.
Asthma. This is when airways in the lungs constrict and produce an excess of mucus, in reaction to irritants in the air, making breathing difficult. Tobacco smoke is a known trigger to asthma, and is a significant cause of deaths from asthma.
Addiction. Nicotine is highly addictive. It takes only ten seconds after inhaling to reach the brain. Health experts say that it is harder to break free of nicotine addiction than heroin.
Gum Disease. Smokers are highly prone to gum disease. The smoke interferes with the saliva’s role in removing bacteria from the mouth. The heat of the cigarette also adversely affects the gums. This is in addition to stains on the teeth and mouth, bad breath and dry mouth experienced by smokers.
Oral Cancer. Cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco smoke line the mouth, tongue and gums, causing cancer. In the United States, 34,000 people are diagnosed with cancer of the mouth or tongue each year.
Stomach Ulcers. Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop peptic ulcers. Not only do they not heal as fast as in non-smokers, they are also much more likely to come back if you smoke.
Chronic Bowel Disease. Smoking has been linked to an increased risk in bowel disease, including Crohn’s Disease.
Throat Cancer. Smoking accounts for 80 percent of throat cancer cases, as smoke’s cancer-causing chemicals are trapped on the mucous membranes of the throat.
Skin Damage. Tobacco smoke causes yellow stains on the hands and face.
Heart Disease. With one puff from a cigarette, the heart begins to beat faster within a minute. Blood vessels constrict, raising blood pressure, putting strain on the heart. Even young smokers are prone to the early signs of heart disease.
Strokes. These are rapid loss of the blood supply to portions of the brain, often caused by a blood vessel hemorrhage, or embolism (a blockage in the blood vessel). This is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Each year 700,000 people suffer from strokes. Smokers are 250 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than non-smokers.
Psoriasis. This is one of the lesser known smoking risks. Psoriasis is a red and silver rash that occurs on various places on the skin, and can be disfiguring. Smokers are twice as likely to develop psoriasis.
Skin aging. Wrinkles and leathery skin are due to decreased blood flow in the skin, due to smoking. This occurs in young smokers as well.
Blindness. Smokers are at a fifty-percent higher risk of developing cataracts, which in turn can cause blindness.