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Smoking can cause irreparable damage to your mind and body. Chemicals in the tobacco travel to all parts of the body, leaving no area unaffected. According to available data, smoking causes 30% of all cancer deaths and about 80% deaths from emphysema and bronchitis. In addition to adversely affecting yourself, smoking also has a severe impact on your near and dear ones. According to WHO, about 600,000 people die every year from passive smoking. Out of the deaths that occur due to this, 1/3rd is that of children.
The Indian situation
While 85% of tobacco users worldwide consume it in the form of cigarettes, in India only 13% use it in that form. Additionally, 54% use it in the form of beedis. A study conducted on Indian smokers has revealed that an average of 8.2 cigarettes is smoked by an individual daily.
The study also revealed that the number of cigarettes smoked every year had grown to over 6 trillion. While 1 out of 10 adults dies from tobacco use worldwide, 5% of deaths in women and 20% of deaths in men in India are caused by cigarette and beedi smoking.
What happens when you smoke?
Cigarette smoke is made up of 4000 chemicals that are present either as tiny particles or gases and about 50 are known to lead to cancer, the toxin nicotine being one of them. In addition to nicotine, the chemicals that make up cigarette smoke also include tar and carbon monoxide. Prolonged exposure to these toxins can hamper your body's ability to filter air and clean the lungs. The smoke not only irritates the lungs but also causes excess production of mucus.
It also causes a paralysis of the tiny hair-like structures like cilia that line the airways and are responsible for removing dust and dirt from the organ. Paralysis of these hair-like structures also causes a buildup of mucus and toxic substances, leading to lung congestion. The extra mucus that is produced causes smokers to suffer from the very ubiquitous smoker's cough and chronic bronchitis.
It's also one of the many triggers of asthma, which brings about the narrowing and inflammation of the airways. Long-term exposure to tobacco smoke causes the destruction of the structure of the lung, walls of the airways as well as lung tissue. The result is a condition known as emphysema. Additionally, smoking also leads to cancer of the lung and over 80% lung cancer cases occur due to this habit. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a pulmonologist.
If you find yourself suffering from coughing spells accompanied by breathlessness and phlegm, you may have bronchitis. Bronchitis is a respiratory disease that causes an inflammation of the bronchial tubes. This narrows the airway and does not allow sufficient oxygen to reach the lungs. There are two types of bronchitis; acute bronchitis that lasts for 1-3 weeks and chronic bronchitis that persists for 3 months to 2 years.
Causes of acute bronchitis
Acute bronchitis is usually a result of viral, lung infections. It can also be caused by bacterial infections and exposure to irritants such as tobacco smoke, dust, vapours and particulate matter in the air.
Causes of chronic bronchitis
Repeated attacks of acute bronchitis can weaken the bronchial passage with time and lead to the development of chronic bronchitis. This condition can also be caused by prolonged exposure to dust, pollution and industrial fumes. This puts coal miners, grain handlers and metal workers at a high risk of suffering from this disease. Smoking cigarettes can also irritate the bronchial tubes and contribute to the development of this condition. Chronic bronchitis worsens when a person is exposed to high levels of sulpher dioxide and other such air pollutants for prolonged time periods. Some of the symptoms of bronchitis are:
- A persistent cough
- Tightening of the chest
If these symptoms last for over a week or begin to interfere with your regular lifestyle, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Self-medicating with an over the counter cough suppressant is counterproductive in the case of bronchitis as a cough is the only way for phlegm and mucus to be expelled from the body. Conventional treatment for bronchitis includes
- Getting lots of rest
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Avoiding exposure to smoke and dust
- Steam inhalations
Along with this, your doctor may also prescribe cough medicines and a bronchial inhalator. In cases of chronic bronchitis, oral or inhaled steroids may also be needed. Your doctor may also suggest a flu vaccine as bronchitis make your lungs vulnerable to further infections. If you smoke, your doctor will also urge you to quit as cigarette smoke can aggravate your symptoms.
In cases of severe chronic bronchitis where the bronchial tube’s ability to pass oxygen is compromised, oxygen therapy may be needed. In such cases, you may need to have an oxygen tank on hand to be used continuously or as required.