Southeastern Idaho Public Health

Smoking

  • About 400,000 Americans die every year because of health problems due to smoking.
  • 1 out of every 6 deaths each year are due to smoking.
  • Every year, 1.5 million people quit smoking, but 50 MILLION KEEP ON GOING!!
  • Tobacco companies spend $5,000 every minute to advertise their products.
  • Smoking has caused health care costs to rise dramatically to $65 billion per year.
  • Smoking CAUSES Emphysema, Lung Cancer, and Chronic Bronchitis.
Just what's in a cigarette?

Actually, aside from tobacco, we are not entirely sure. Cigarettes are one of the few products of any sort on the market that aren't regulated. Food has to have a list of ingredients, all clothes have tags describing the fabric, electric devices are UL approved - but cigarettes are entirely unregulated. The tobacco companies have released lists of additives to tobacco, but trusting someone who would say under oath, as the CEOs of all the major companies have, that nicotine isn't addictive is probably not a good idea. So we have to go with what the Federal Trade Commission found in the smoke that comes out of burning cigarettes. Of the more than 4,000 chemicals that the FTC found, over 50 are known human carcinogens, meaning they have been proven to cause cancer not only in lab animals but also in people. In the end it's usually not the nicotine that kills people - it's these other chemicals.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is the same odorless, colorless gas that comes out the tailpipe of your car or a faulty gas heater. In high enough concentrations it is deadly; in lower doses it causes shortness of breath and increased heart rate. Normally, red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body by binding it to a molecule called hemoglobin. When a person smokes, carbon monoxide (rather than oxygen) attaches itself to hemoglobin and deactivates these red blood cells for extended periods of time. Eventually the carbon monoxide falls off or the red blood cells are replaced. However, carbon monoxide is replaced by continued smoking. This is one of the key reasons athletes almost never smoke, as over 10% of the body's hemoglobin can be inactivated at any one time.

The body is able to eliminate most of the carbon monoxide fairly quickly. Most people who quit feel more energetic and less short of breath within a few days of quitting.

Tar

Tar is the dark substance that actually carries nicotine to the lungs. Along with the nicotine it also carries the long list of other chemicals discussed above.

Benzene, Radon, and Other Nasty Stuff

These are chemicals that the EPA has said you don't want in your home since they cause cancer. Inhaling them through a small white tube all day long is probably just as bad. Enough said.

Nicotine

Although only one of many dangerous substances in cigarettes, nicotine is the drug responsible for making cigarettes so addictive. In fact, studies have shown nicotine to be as or more addictive than heroin and cocaine. Within seven seconds of inhaling on a cigarette, nicotine has reached your brain. The drug acts upon receptor cells providing the "hit" that your body expects. This triggers various responses in your body; your heartbeat and breathing rate go up and blood vessels constrict. By the time you have extinguished the cigarette, the nicotine level in your blood will have peaked; within a half-hour your body will have cleaned it out of the blood stream. This spiking is part of what makes cigarettes so addictive. The method of delivery - direct to the lungs and then to the brain - and the intensity of its effects, help to make nicotine extremely addictive.

In the morning, most smokers inhale deeply on their first cigarettes as the nicotine content in the blood has dropped overnight and they are quite practically in withdrawal. In reality smokers spend much of their time in withdrawal; stress, anxiety, and boredom are all heightened by daily withdrawal in between cigarettes. In between, cigarettes every smoker goes through a small scale version of what the quitter does. Over the day the smoker smokes enough cigarettes to maintain a sufficient nicotine blood level to prevent these withdrawal symptoms. Usually the minimum number to achieve this (regardless of nicotine content of the cigarette) is 10-12 cigarettes spaced over the day. Generally this explains why people who smoke less than half a pack a day are uncommon.

Nicotine also acts as a vasoconstrictor, meaning it decreases the diameter of your blood vessels making it more difficult for blood to flow through the body. This can lead to higher blood pressure and forces the heart to work harder. It may be one of the reasons for increases heart disease in long time smokers. More obvious indications are cold or clammy hands, as the extremities do not receive as much blood.

Just how and why nicotine affects the brain the way it does is poorly understood. While we know that it can act as both a stimulant (giving smokers a lift) or a depressant (relaxing smokers when they feel tense, or stressed). Much of this seems dependent upon dosage and current levels of nicotine in the blood.

  • Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in American society. Tobacco use is responsible for one in five deaths. There are more deaths from tobacco use than combined deaths from: AIDS, Cocaine, Fire, Heroin, Alcohol, Homicide, Car Crashes, & Suicide.
  • If trend continues, 24, 394 Idaho kids now under age 18 eventually will die from smoking related diseases. This is the same as 976 elementary classrooms full of kids at 25 children per class.

The Toll of Tobacco in Idaho

Tobacco Use in Idaho
  • High school students who smoke: 19.1% (Girls: 17.1% Boys: 20.7%)
  • High school males who use smokeless tobacco: 14.3%
  • Kids (under 18) who try cigarettes for the first time each year: 8,900
  • Additional kids (under 18) who become new regular, daily smokers each year: 3,900
  • Packs of cigarettes bought or smoked by kids in Idaho each year: 3.4 million
  • Kids exposed to secondhand smoke at home: 61,000
  • Percentage of workplaces that have smoke-free policies: 71.1%
  • Adults in Idaho who smoke: 22.3% (Men: 22.8% Women: 21.8%)

Nationwide, youth smoking has declined since 1997, but remains at historically high levels. The 2001 National Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance found that 28.5% of U.S. high school kids smoke and 14.8% of high school males use spit tobacco. U.S. adult smoking has decreased gradually since the 1980s, and 23.3% of U.S. adults (44+ million) currently smoke.

Deaths in Idaho From Smoking
  • Adults who die each year in Idaho from their own smoking: 1,500
  • Annual deaths from others' smoking (secondhand smoke & pregnancy smoking): 160 to 280
  • Idaho kids who have lost at least one parent to a smoking-caused death: 1,200
  • Idaho kids who will ultimately die from smoking: 32,000 (given current smoking levels)

Smoking kills more people each year than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders, and suicides combined -- and thousands more die from other tobacco-related causes, such as secondhand smoke or spit-tobacco use. No good state-specific estimates are currently available, however, for the number of Idaho citizens who die from these other tobacco causes, or for the massive numbers who suffer from tobacco-caused health problems each year without actually dying.