Smoking - the facts

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland with almost 6,000 smokers dying each year from tobacco related diseases. Smoking related deaths are mainly due to cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) and heart disease. Cigarettes contain over 4000 toxic chemicals, many of which are proven to cause cancer. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many different illnesses and diseases. If you are a long-term smoker, on average, your life expectancy is about 10 years less than a non-smoker. The younger you are when you start smoking, the more likely you are to smoke for longer and to die early from smoking.

One in every two long term smokers will die from a tobacco related disease. 

Cigarette Smoke contains the following

Whats in a cigarette

Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including approximately 69 known cancer causing carcinogenic chemicals as well as over 400 other toxins. Nicotine is one of the main ingredients in a cigarette and it is a highly addictive. Smoke containing nicotine is inhaled into the lungs, and the nicotine reaches the brain in just six seconds. Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, a colourless, odorless, poisoness gas that is released on combustion. In smokers, carbon monoxide readily displaces Oxygen in the bloodstream and deprives the heart, brain and other vital organs of Oxygen. 

Some familiar chemicals found in cigarettes:

  • Carbon Monoxide - car exaust fumes
  • Nicotine 
  • Tar - used on roads
  • Arsenic - rat poison
  • Ammonia - cleaning chemical
  • Hydrogen Cyanide - gas chamber poison
  • Cyanide - deadly poison
  • Acetone - used in nail polish remover
  • DDT - Insecticide
  • Formaldehyde - used to preserve dead bodies
  • Sulfuric Acid - car batteries
  • Cadmium - used to recharge car batteries

Within one minute of starting to smoke, your heart rate begins to rise and it could increase by as much as 30% within the first 10 minutes of smoking.

By smoking you increase your risk of developing cancers and diseases, even if you do not smoke every day. The following cancers and diseases are common among smokers;

  • Heart Attack.
  • Coronary Heart Disease.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
  • Respiratory Disease/Lung Cancer.
  • Cancers of the mouth, nose, larynx, throat, oesophagus, pancreas, bladder, cervix, blood and kidney are all common in smokers.
  • Diseases of the Circulatory System (Peripheral Arterial Disease).
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Smoking facts

  • Smokers are more likely to get cancer than non-smokers. This is particularly true of lung cancer, throat cancer and mouth cancer, which hardly ever affect non-smokers.
  • The link between smoking and lung cancer is clear.
  • Ninety percent of lung cancer cases are due to smoking.
  • One in ten moderate smokers and almost one in five heavy smokers (more than 15 cigarettes a day) will die of lung cancer.
  • The more cigarettes you smoke in a day, and the longer you've smoked, the higher your risk of lung cancer. Similarly, the risk rises the deeper you inhale and the earlier in life you started smoking.
  • For ex-smokers, it takes approximately 15 years before the risk of lung cancer drops to the same as that of a non-smoker.
  • If you smoke, the risk of contracting mouth cancer is also four times higher than for a non-smoker. Cancer can start in many areas of the mouth, with the most common being on or underneath the tongue, or on the lips.

Other effects of smoking

  • Smoking raises blood pressure - a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke.
  • Couples who smoke are more likely to have fertility problems than couples who are non-smokers.
  • Smoking worsens asthma and counteracts asthma medication by worsening the inflammation of the airways that the medicine tries to ease.
  • Smoking stains your teeth and gums.
  • Smoking causes an acid taste in the mouth and contributes to the development of ulcers.
  • Smoking also affects your looks: smokers have paler skin and more wrinkles. This is because smoking reduces the blood and oxygen supply to the skin and lowers levels of vitamin A.
  • Smokers age quicker than non smokers.
  • Smoking is expensive.
  • Your sense of taste and smell are dulled. Enjoyment of food may be reduced.
  • Life insurance is more expensive.

What are the benefits of stopping smoking?

It’s good for your health!

The benefits begin immediately. You reduce your risk of getting serious disease no matter what age you give up. However, the sooner you stop, the greater the reduction in your risk.

If you stop smoking before the age of 35, your life expectancy is only slightly less than that of people who have never smoked.

If you stop smoking before the age of 50, you decrease the risk of dying from smoking-related diseases by 50%.

Everyone knows you feel better when you give up smoking.

But, it is never too late to stop smoking to gain health benefits. Even if you already have COPD or heart disease, your outlook (prognosis) is much improved if you stop smoking.

The following health benefits will be noticed almost immediately after you give up smoking.

After 20 minutes: your blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal. Circulation improves in hands and feet.

After 8 hours: oxygen levels in the blood return to normal and your chance of heart attack starts to fall.

After 24 hours: poisonous carbon monoxide gas is eliminated from the body. The lungs start to clear out mucous and other debris.

After 48 hours: nicotine is no longer detectable in the body. Taste and smell improve.

After 72 hours: breathing becomes easier as the bronchial tubes relax and energy levels increase.

After 2 weeks: circulation improves, making walking and exercise easier.

After 3 to 9 months: coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing are reduced dramatically.

After 5 years: risk of heart attack falls to that of a non-smoker.

After 10 years: risk of lung cancer falls to about half that of a smoker.

Other benefits to stopping smoking

  • Chest infections and colds become less frequent.
  • Food and drinks taste and smell much better.
  • Finances improve – more money in your pocket. The average smoker smoking 20 cigarettes per day can save a total of €4,380 per year! See how much you can save by giving up smoking
  • You will feel good about yourself.

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