Join for Just $16 A Year
- Discounts on travel and everyday savings
- Subscription to AARP The Magazine
- Free membership for your spouse or partner
Smoking is the inhalation of the smoke of burning tobacco encased in cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. Casual smoking is the act of smoking only occasionally, usually in a social situation or to relieve stress. A smoking habit is a physical addiction to tobacco products. Many health experts now regard habitual smoking as a psychological addiction, too, and one with serious health consequences.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asserted that cigarettes and smokeless tobacco should be considered nicotine delivery devices. Nicotine, the active ingredient in tobacco, is inhaled into the lungs, where most of it stays. The rest passes into the bloodstream, reaching the brain in about ten seconds and dispersing throughout the body in about 20 seconds.
Depending on the circumstances and the amount consumed, nicotine can act as either a stimulant or tranquilizer. This can explain why some people report that smoking gives them energy and stimulates their mental activity, while others note that smoking relieves anxiety and relaxes them. The initial "kick" results in part from the drug's stimulation of the adrenal glands and resulting release of epinephrine into the blood. Epinephrine causes several physiological changes—it temporarily narrows the arteries, raises the blood pressure, raises the levels of fat in the blood, and increases the heart rate and flow of blood from the heart. Some researchers think epinephrine contributes to smokers' increased risk of high blood pressure.
|THERAPIES FOR TREATING SYMPTOMS OF SMOKING CESSATION|
|Lobelia||Used as a nicotine substitute, it can bolster the nervous system||Withdrawal and craving|
|Wild oats or kava kava||Relaxant||Withdrawal|
|Licorice||Can be chewed to help withdrawal||Oral fixation|
|Hawthorn, gingko biloba, and bilberry||All contain bioflavonoids that can help repair free radical damage||Damage to lungs and cardiovascular system|
|Acupuncture||Stimulation of points in ears and feet helps cessation||Addiction and withdrawal|
|Vitamin C||Antioxidant that helps fight infection||Boosts immune system|
|Vitamin B12||Helps protect body from disease||Smoking-induced cancers|
|Omega-3 fatty acids||Helps protect body from disease||Smoking-related illness, such as emphysema, and depression|
Nicotine by itself increases the risk of heart disease. However, when a person smokes, he or she is ingesting a lot more than nicotine. Smoke from a cigarette, pipe, or cigar is made up of many additional toxic chemicals, including tar and carbon monoxide. Tar is a sticky substance that forms into deposits in the lungs, causing lung cancer and respiratory distress. Carbon monoxide limits the amount of oxygen that the red blood cells can convey throughout the body. Also, it may damage the inner walls of the arteries, which allows fat to build up in them.
Besides tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke contains 4,000 different chemicals. More than 200 of these chemicals are known be toxic. Nonsmokers who are exposed to tobacco smoke also take in these toxic chemicals. They inhale the smoke exhaled by the smoker as well as the more toxic sidestream smoke—the smoke from the end of the burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe.
Here's why sidestream smoke is more toxic than exhaled smoke: When a person smokes, the smoke he or she inhales and then breathes out leaves harmful deposits inside the body. But because lungs partially cleanse the smoke, exhaled smoke contains fewer poisonous chemicals. That's why exposure to tobacco smoke is dangerous even for a nonsmoker.
Author Info: Barbara Boughton, Rebecca J. Frey PhD, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
Member access to health and insurance products and services at AARPhealthcare.com.
Members can get an instant quote with AARP® Dental Insurance administered by Delta Dental Insurance Company.
Members can save on eyewear with AARP® Vision Discounts provided by EyeMed.
Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.