Cigarettes kill six million people every year, including 600,000 who die from second hand smoke (WHO).
In Canada, they kill over 100 people every single day.
They are so dangerous because they contain one of the most addictive substances known (nicotine) and a wide range of carcinogenic and poisonous chemicals.
The nicotine gets people hooked quickly; the other poisons kill people slowly, over many decades.
It would be hard to design a more effective killing machine than a cigarette.
When you eat something poisonous, it has to survive the acid in the stomach and get through the relatively thick wall of your intestine. It then goes to your liver, which has a chance to break down anything poisonous before it enters your circulation.
When you inject a drug into a vein, it has to go first to the right side of your heart, then through your lungs, then through the left side of your heart before it enters the general circulation and gets to your brain.
But when you inhale cigarette smoke through your mouth it goes straight into your lungs, where the layer between the air you breathe and your blood is only one cell thick. The poisons then go directly through the left side of your heart, into the general circulation, and up to your brain.
The human brain contains specific nicotine receptors. Within a few seconds of taking a puff, they are occupied by the nicotine from the tobacco smoke, and they release dopamine, the brain chemical which makes you feel happy. Between 1997 and 2012. the tobacco industry has deliberately increased the amount of nicotine in cigarettes by 15% (NTR) .
The response to cigarettes is so rapid and so strong, that it is easy to get addicted. Cigarettes are as addictive as heroin or cocaine (CDC).
Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including 70 which are known to cause cancer (CDC).
Diseases caused by smoking (NHS)
Smoking causes about 90% of lung cancers. It also causes cancer in many other parts of the body, including mouth, lips, throat, voice box (larynx), oesophagus (the tube between your mouth and stomach), bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas.
Smoking damages your heart and your blood circulation, increasing your risk of developing conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease (damaged blood vessels in arms and legs), and cerebrovascular disease (damaged arteries that supply blood to your brain).
Smoking also damages your lungs, leading to conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, emphysema, and pneumonia.
Smoking can also worsen or prolong the symptoms of respiratory conditions such as asthma, or respiratory tract infections such as the common cold.
Breathing in secondhand smoke – also known as passive smoking – increases your risk of getting the same health conditions as smokers. For example, breathing in secondhand smoke increases a non-smoker’s risk of developing lung cancer by about a quarter. A child who is exposed to passive smoke is at increased risk of developing chest infections, meningitis, a persistent cough and, if they have asthma, their symptoms will get worse. They’re also at increased risk of cot death and glue ear (an ear infection).
In men, smoking can cause impotence because it limits the blood supply to the penis. It can also reduce the fertility of both men and women.
If you smoke when you’re pregnant, you put your unborn baby’s health at risk, as well as your own. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of complications such as miscarriage, premature (early) birth, a low birth weight baby, and stillbirth.
Every cigarette you smoke shortens your life by about 10 minutes. Of every 1,000 Canadians aged 20 who continue to smoke, about half (500) will die from smoking – 250 of them before the age of 70. On average, people who die from smoking lose 15 years of their expected life (CAMH).The average life expectancy in Canada is 81 years, so if you retire at 65 you can expect to have 16 years of retirement living. But if you smoke, and die 15 years earlier, you only have one year to enjoy your retirement.