How Does Tobacco Use Affect the Human Body?
Since early childhood, we have gained some general knowledge about smoking, and we all know that smoking is a bad habit. But why exactly? What happens to a smoker’s body? According to Sullivan (2004), our bodies have special receptors that perform their functions in the synthesis of nicotine. They are active by default, but an inhale of cigarette smoke boosts their activity. Consequently, a smoker experiences an increase of heartbeat and an outburst of some hormones such as dopamine, the hormone in charge of one’s good spirits. Such effect can be produced not only by cigarettes but also by smokeless tobacco, nicotine chewing gum, and therapeutic patches. However, after a prolonged smoking period, the sensation of one’s body speeding up is blurred, requiring more frequent nicotine intake and causing addiction.
Although we are aware of the damage caused by smoking, there are some statements that the smokers themselves believe to be true. There is an opinion that with the help of nicotine people act more cool-headedly and sensibly under pressure. However, the researcher West (1993) argues that such statements usually lack support. Besides, the researcher states, the smokers’ poor efficiency and disability to handle stress are the result of their addiction to nicotine and can only be curbed by an extra dose of the drug.
In its turn, a study by Rusted and his fellow scientists (2009) disputes the idea that nicotine can improve one’s memory. In their work, they conclude that stimulating a human organism with nicotine does not develop concentration or cognition.
Apart from common beliefs, some investigators suggest there can be positive consequences of using the substance. In their work, Mineur and his colleagues (2011) claim that those who smoke are less likely to be overweight than non-smokers. Nicotine, they state, reduces one’s appetite and, therefore, decreases one’s calorie intake. Considering the side effects of smoking, they suggest pure nicotine in small doses as a preventive measure against obesity.
There is a more important feature of nicotine. In their neuroscientific research, Professor Takeuchi and his coworkers (2013) model a possible way of treating Parkinson’s disease using small flies as the control group. Having studied the subject in the laboratory and real-life conditions, the scientists have discovered that nicotine addicts are at less risk of having Parkinson. They assure that the drug can be used when treating those genetically predisposed to this disease.
Advantages of smoking are few and underinvestigated, whereas the drawbacks are numerous and hardly arguable. To start with, Omvik (1996) estimates the possible effects of nicotine on blood pressure. It is emphasized in his paper that the changes in blood flow can be addictive for a human organism and result in heart diseases.
Active or passive smoking can even be damaging before birth. Researches Kusel, Timm, and Lockhart (2013) overview the changes in weight and bones of babies whose parents smoked or were exposed to second-hand smoking. Those whose mothers smoked passively or actively tended to be underweight and developed diseases of bone tissue.
According to authors Jha and Peto (2014), who give an account of smoking effects on global scale, smoking leads to earlier death. In general, smokers tend to die 20 years earlier than those who do not smoke. Another point is that the risk of having mortal diseases such as lung cancer is twice as high in smokers than in non-smokers. Still, the authors reassure, by giving up smoking one can reduce the damage and prolong one’s lifetime. The earlier smoking is quit, the more years of life duration are gained back: having stopped smoking at the age of 30, one can add extra 10 years to one’s lifespan.
There are four main ideas about the effects of smoking in these sources. Firstly, It is believed that smoking can improve one’s memory and temper, but such effects lack substantial support. Secondly, there are some proved positive results of smoking, such as lowered risk of obesity and Parkinson’s disease. Yet, the negative effects are too drastic to use smoking as a means of medical treatment. Smokers die younger and are prone to long-term health troubles with heart, bones, and lungs. In fact, smoking deteriorates the whole body. The final idea is more encouraging: quitting smoking can extend one’s lifetime for as much as 10 years and reduce the risk of diseases.
In order to test the ideas about the effects of smoking on the human body, this researcher has surveyed 50 early and mature adults, either smokers or those who have given up smoking. The respondents were picked randomly and were asked to answer some questions concerning their smoking status and the effects of smoking they have experienced.
(the questions differ for those who smoke currently or have given up):
- Do you smoke or have quit smoking?
- Have you experienced any of the given effects after you started smoking:
- improvement of your memory / ability to cope with stress?
- weight loss?
- changes in blood pressure?
- troubles with your heart?
- cough / difficult breathing / pant / apnoea?
- any other outer or inner effects? (list them as necessary)
- Have you experienced any health improvements after you quit?
|Smoking status||Smoker||Quit smoking|
|Smoking effects experienced:|
|Better memory / stress resistance||72%||53%|
|Changes in blood pressure||62%||69%|
|Other effects stated by respondents:|
|Skin changes (wrinkles, unhealthy colour)||41%||47%|
|Bad teeth / dry mouth||43%||62%|
|Social pressure / high cost of cigarettes||78%||92%|
|Health improvements after quitting|
As we can see from the chart, 37 of 50 respondents are active smokers, while 13 have given up the habit. The majority of the current of former smokers believe their memory and stress resistance improved after they have started smoking; weight loss was experienced by the lesser part of the surveyed.
Still, the negative effects manifest themselves. Dangerously big percentage of smokers admit they have minor ailments that can result into something terminal in the long run. As to the other effects, it is remarkable that no one has stated a single positive outcome of smoking; the most popular were alarming changes in appearance, the high price of cigarettes, and social pressure. Notably, an overwhelming majority of those who quit experienced health improvements.
Thus, the positive effects of smoking still remain in question, while the damage is obvious. A humbling amount of smokers has somehow or other felt the harmful consequences of their habit. It is worth noticing that those who quit have considerably less positive experience (improvement of memory, ability to handle stress, and weight loss) than smokers. At the same time, their estimate of negative experience (problems with health and physical appearance, and socio-economical issues caused by smoking) is higher than that of the smokers. Apparently, this is the reason they quit.
Jha, P., & Peto, R. (2014). Global Effects of Smoking, of Quitting, and of Taxing Tobacco. The New England Journal of Medicine, 370(1), 60-68.
Kusel, J., Timm, B., & Lockhart I. (2013). The impact of smoking in the home on the health outcomes of non-smoker occupants in the UK. Tobacco Induced Diseases, 11(3), 1-10.
Mineur, Y. S., Abizaid, A., Rao, Y., Salas, R., DiLeone, R. J., Gündisch, D.,…Picciotto, M. R. (2011). Nicotine Decreases Food Intake Through Activation of POMC Neurons. Science, 332(6035), 1330-1332.
Omvik P. (1996). How smoking affects blood pressure. US National Library of Medicine, 5(2), 71-77.
Rusted, J. M., Sawyer, R., Jones, C., Trawley, S. L., & Marchant, N. L. (2009). Positive effects of nicotine on cognition: the deployment of attention for prospective memory. Psychopharmacology, 202(1), 93-102.
Sullivan, Dan M. (2004). Nicotine. Chemistry: Foundations and Applications. Web.
Takeuchi, H., Yanagida, T., Inden, M., Takata, K., Kitamura, Y., Yamakawa, K.,…Shimohama, S. (2009). Nicotinic receptor stimulation protects nigral dopaminergic neurons in rotenone-induced Parkinson’s disease models. Journal of Neuroscience Research, 87(2), 576-585.
West, R. (1993). Beneficial effects of nicotine: Fact or fiction? Addiction, 88(5), 589-590.