Smoking effects have varying degrees of health consequences depending on whether a person directly smokes cigarettes first-hand, is breathing second-hand smoke or even being exposed from a third-hand perspective. Since all pose significant health risks, more is being done to implement bans for public safety. In general, smoking can harm nearly all organs in the body. It is confirmed that cell mutation is a serious side-effect as a result of nicotine exposure.
Researchers from Virginia Bioinformatics Institute discovered that it was not all that safe to utilize nicotine-infused smoking cessation products to assist smokers in breaking the habit. Nicotine has carcinogenic properties that literally alter the DNA in cells. A professor of biological science with the Virginia Tech Carillion School of Medicine and with the College of Science, along with Jasmin Bavarva, a geneticist, uncovered thousands of mutations caused by nicotine when exposed to single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These patterns of mutations indicate oxidative stress which are indicative of a cancer precursor. This discovery has broadened the view of genomic effects in nicotine, which confirms that it can promote a cancer state and should not be used in cig cessation. This finding clearly shows the direct effect nicotine vapor emissions can have in the body.
Cigarettes increases risk for stroke and heart disease by two to four times, and increases risk for lung cancer by 25 times. Not only does smoking increase absenteeism from work, but also causes overall health to be diminished which increases the need for health care and the cost that comes with it. The leading cause of death in the United States is coronary heart disease and stroke which is directly related to the effects of smoking. Blood vessels are damaged by cigarette smoke in that the smoke can thicken the walls, making them narrower, thus preventing the heart from receiving enough oxygen. This results in damaging the heart muscle. Clotting can cause either a heart attack or stroke.
Lung diseases caused by smoking include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, asthma and lung cancer. Non-smokers are 12 to 13 times less likely to die from these respiratory illnesses than the actual smoker.
Cancer knows no boundaries when it comes to smoking. It is likely to attack anywhere in the body including bladder, kidney and ureter, cervix, colon, rectum, pancreas, stomach, trachea, bronchus, lung, parts of the throat, tongue, soft palate and tonsils, larynx, esophagus, liver, and blood. The risk of dying from cancer is increased in all people who are exposed. It has been observed that if “no one smoked” at least one in every three deaths in the United States could be prevented. Knowing the broad range of effects that cigarette vapors have on all people, public safety measures are becoming more widespread to protect individuals from the first-hand, second-hand and third-hand effects of smoking by instating more bans.
Although there are numerous other first-hand health risks for smokers, the second-hand health risks are not to be taken lightly. Second-hand smoke is defined as the emissions coming from the end of a burning cigarette as well as what is being exhaled by the smoker. More than 7,000 chemicals are polluting the air from this second-hand smoke, of which hundreds are toxic and 70 of those are known to cause cancer. According to the Surgeon General’s Report, since 1964, deaths caused by breathing second-hand smoke have surpassed the 2.5 million mark.
Second-hand smoke does not offer a risk-free level of exposure. Second-hand smoke creates a vast amount of problems in children and infants, including asthma, ear infections, respiratory infections as well as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Parents are advised by the Centers for Disease Control to protect their children from smoke at all costs. Non-smokers suffer many of the same health risks as do smokers, including damage to lining of blood vessels, resulting in heart attacks and strokes, along with increased susceptibility to lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses.
Third-hand smoke has to do with the remaining contamination that exists after the cigarette has been put out. A pediatrician at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center in Boston, Johnathan Winickoff, has recently authored a study exposing the toxins that remain in clothes, carpets, sofas, etc., and has coined the phrase “third-hand smoke.” Winickoff’s research team is concerned with the build-up of toxicity over time. The toxins accumulate layer upon layer and the exposure has been linked to diminished IQ’s. Dangerous compounds found in cigarette smoke are cyanide and arsenic. Cyanide is used in chemical weapons and prohibits oxygen from being released into tissues. Arsenic is used to kill rats. Another researcher, Director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, agreed that the levels of cigarette toxicity are astronomical in comparison to other forms of environmental toxins.
Cigarette smoke, whether first-hand, second-hand or third-hand, offers no risk free boundaries. In the United States alone, first-hand smoke contributes to more than 480,000 deaths per year, which equates to one in five. Second-hand smoke snuffs out 34,000 lives prematurely each year. Third-hand smoke is silently lurking and now suspected to be the number one cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), due to the rapid respiration of infants, which means they get 20 time more exposure than an adult in the same space.
The most recent ban put into place in the United States is at Cape Cod National Seashore. The ban begins June 19, 2014, for the Cape’s six popular beaches. Chief Ranger Leslie Reynolds commented that smoking will be prohibited within 400-600 yards of all lifeguards on duty. Violators will be charged a fine of $50. Their goal is to educate smokers. First time offenders will likely be issued an oral or written warning. The ban came as a result of a number of complaints regarding second-hand smoke. Barricades will indicate where smokers can and cannot light up.
Public concern and safety is on the rise. Parents are recognizing the dangers and desiring to protect their little ones. Awareness of the effects of first-hand, along with second-hand and third-hand smoke is promoting action to ban the hazards of cigarette vapor emissions for the sake of public safety.
By Jill Boyer-Adriance