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The hidden dangers faced by female smokers

Most female smokers are now well aware that smoking can lead to cancer, heart disease and premature death but they are often less clear about other negative health effects.

Surveys indicate that  the vast majority of female smokers are unaware of the link between tobacco smoke and increased risks of developing long-term health problems such as menstrual irregularities, infertility, early onset of menopause, osteoporosis, potentially premature grey hair and even baldness.

WHO: Smoking responsible for death of 5 million every year

Smoking tobacco is responsible for approximately five million deaths annually, 25 different diseases and is a contributory factor to many more deaths via passive smoking – according to the WHO’s latest report (November 2010). The report concluded that smoking is a greater cause of death and disability than any single disease.

When a smoker inhales they ingest smoke containing about 4,000 different chemicals, each of which are injurious to the cells and systems of the human body. The WHO’s latest study found that these ‘ include at least 80 chemicals that can cause cancer (including tar, arsenic, benzene, cadmium and formaldehyde) nicotine (a highly addictive chemical which hooks a smoker into their habit) and hundreds of other poisons such as cyanide, carbon monoxide and ammonia’.

Extensive research has established how cigarette smoking damages the body. UK studies show that smokers in their 30s and 40s are five times more likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers, for instance.

Smoking is a contributory factor in coronary artery disease where the heart’s blood supply becomes narrowed or blocked, reducing availability of nutrients and oxygen to the heart muscle resulting in a heart attack. Smokers face greatly increased risk of undergoing complex heart bypass surgery. They also face increased incidence of stroke due to damage to the heart and to arteries leading to the brain.

It’s estimated that a life-long smoker has a 50 per cent chance of suffering a premature smoking-related death and that half of these deaths will be in middle age.

Smoking clearly does enormous damage to the lungs – more than 20,000 people in the UK every year die from lung cancer. Studies in North America indicate men who smoke increase their chances of dying from the disease by more than 22 times, women by nearly 12 times.

Smokers also suffer an extremely high incidence of a group of chronic debilitating lung conditions including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Smoking in pregnancy brings another raft of problems including increased risk of miscarriage, lower birth weight babies, and arguably, inhibited child development.

Following the birth, smoking by parents is associated with sudden infant death syndrome, and increased rates of infant respiratory illness.

Although it’s accepted that the health risks of smoking are cumulative, giving up the habit yields results at any age; our bodies go into harm reduction and repair mode as soon as the habit ceases.

Value your sight? Quit the fags

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and smoking is the key preventable cause of this condition.

The 4000 or so chemicals in cigarette smoke find their way into the bloodstream and can induce damage to the macula (tissue near the centre of the retina which gives its name to the disease). This damage results in deterioration of these cells and can lead to blindness over time.

The condition is commonly referred to as AMD (Age-related macular degeneration).

  • The primary method of AMD prevention is to simply avoid smoke
  • If you are a smoker, take steps to stop now                                                          
  • Smokers are up to four times more likely than non-smokers to suffer from the condition.

Public health experts at the University of Manchester stated in a British Medical Journal report:

“In Great Britain, an estimated 53,900 people older than 69 have AMD attributed to smoking.  Of that number, 17,900 are legally blind”.

Apart from a minority of cases detected in the very early stages, laser surgery cannot reverse the damage resulting from this condition, but it may retard or prevent the progression of the disease.

Often, those suffering from macular degeneration do not notice the symptoms until damage progresses to their second eye; in the early stages a healthy eye can compensate for the affected one.

Passive smoking disproportionately harms women and children

Passive smoking causes heart disease, respiratory illness and lung cancer

The WHO commissioned a study which reported its conclusions in late 2010.Its research indicated that passive smoking causes deaths from heart disease, lower respiratory infections, asthma and from lung cancer.  Ultimately, the research found that passive smoking is responsible for around 1% of deaths worldwide.

Women were found to die in larger proportions than men or children: 47% of females died compared to 28% of children and 26% of men. Fewer women smoke than men and they are more likely to be exposed to second-hand smoke.

It was found that children, being unable to escape second-hand smoke at home, are more likely than adults to suffer health damage from passive smoking. Not only were they were found to suffer a range of respiratory conditions, the lungs of children who breathe in passive smoke may also develop more slowly than children who grow up in smoke-free homes.

The authors of the report concluded that “there can be no question that the 1.2 billion smokers in the world are exposing billions of non-smokers to second-hand smoke, a disease-causing indoor air pollutant.” (World Health Organisation 2010)


Smoking: not sexy

The true costs of smoking aren’t just monetary; cigarettes can even take their toll on your sex life

Most smokers initially experiment with cigarettes in an endeavor to fit in with their peers at a young age. To the average youth it looks cool, appears more adult and allows them to strike a ‘rebel stance.’

Ironically, it seems that misguided attempts to boost youthful sexual auras leads to long term problems in that very area.

Recently scientific studies have examined the connection between smoking and libido and concluded there absolutely is one – and it’s a little one!

Specifically, smoking has long been linked to coronary artery blockage, but now we know that arteries in the penis are also damaged by smoking.

In a study of men with penile artery blockage (average age 35), smokers were significantly more affected than non-smokers.

As erections are primarily facilitated by clear blood flow into the penis, unclogged arteries are crucial in maintaining and enhancing one’s sex life.

Nicotine is essentially a vasoconstrictor; it tightens blood vessels and restricts blood circulation. Over time it has been shown to cause permanent damage to arteries.

To compound the affect, another related study found that carbon monoxide within the blood caused by smoking inhibits the production of testosterone – the hormone that initiates the sex drive.

Research shows that around 40 percent of men affected by impotence have a smoking history, a significant figure when you consider it affects only 28 percent of the total male population.

It’s not just men who suffer negative sexual consequences from smoking.

Females should be concerned about impotence too – even if their partner doesn’t smoke.

Just as nicotine restricts blood flow and triggers erectile dysfunction in men,  blood circulation is restricted in female smokers too, and may have a negative impact on both sensation and arousal.

Although smokers may have basked in a much misunderstood positive image in the past, it’s increasingly understood that if you want to get it on you need to stub it out!

STOP PRESS: Cigarettes not all bad!

A new scientific study has found an unlikely new treasure – cigarette butts!

The study conducted by Jun Zhao et al (2010) found that cigarette butts, which are usually thrown in the rubbish or casually dropped outdoors, may have a practical use – preventing steel corrosion.

Past studies indicate that cigarette butts aren’t just an eyesore – they contain toxins that harm the environment in many ways and can often prove hazardous to marine life.

It is an accepted fact that cigarette butts contain a potent concentrated cocktail of noxious chemicals. However, in this unique study, it was found that ‘extracts of cigarette butts in water, applied to a type of steel (N80) widely used in the oil industry, protected the steel from rusting even under harsh conditions, preventing costly damage and interruptions in oil production’.

Nine chemicals in the extracts, including nicotine, are thought to be responsible for this anti-corrosion effect.
(Ref: Cigarette Butts and Their Application in Corrosion Inhibition – Jun Zhao et al, March 26, 2010).

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