Similar to present day climate change deniers and their well-funded lobbies, tobacco companies spent decades and a vast fortune denying both the carcinogenic nature of cigarettes and the addictive properties of nicotine, despite voluminous evidence to the contrary. As late as 1994, the executives of the seven biggest tobacco companies actually testified, under oath, in the American Congress that cigarettes were not addictive.
However, a continual stream of internal documents leaks and whistle-blowers eventually compelled tobacco companies to admit that their cigarettes were, in fact, dangerous and addictive. Following the tobacco companies' defeat in court to a Bill Clinton's White House-led lawsuit to recover Medicaid cost (for a record $246 billion) for cigarette-related treatments, Philip Morris, the manufacturer of popular brands like Marlboro, L&M and Benson & Hedges, publicly acknowledged in 1999 - for the first time ever - that cigarettes do indeed cause cancer and other diseases.
Today, we know that the 7,000 chemicals contained in cigarette smoke are responsible for a wide variety of diseases and ailments. Smoking damages almost every organ in the human body, and causes cancer, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, and a few dozen other diseases. Cigarettes also reduce fertility in both men and women, and can damage foetuses. It's a very well-rounded agent of bodily destruction.
The Mechanics of Death by Smoking
When we inhale a cigarette, the smoke travels down our throat into our lungs, specifically at the bronchi, where it will then spread into smaller pathways called bronchioles. The smoke will continue to spread into even smaller pathways and tunnels before it eventually reaches the alveoli, a cluster of air sacs which facilitates gaseous exchange.
Over time, the tar residue in smoke will begin to settle around the walls of the alveoli. It will impair the elasticity, absorbency and efficiency of the alveoli, which reduces the ability of our lungs to draw in and distribute oxygen. This drop in efficiency will trigger symptoms like breathlessness and tiredness. As we continue to smoke, the tar build-up in our lungs will continue to degrade their efficiency, which will lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Next up, is the heart. Smoking introduces carbon monoxide (CO) into our body. Some of them will attach themselves to the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin in our blood. This naturally reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of the haemoglobin, which forces the heart to pump quicker to compensate for the reduced oxygen level. Over an extended period of time, the strain will harm the heart and blood vessels.
A chemical reaction to smoke in our heart also leads to calcification of fatty deposits around the walls of the arteries, which narrows down the passageways of blood vessels. The reduction in blood (oxygen) circulating in our body will once again compel our heart to pump faster. This increase in activity is the primary cause of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and other heart diseases.
In a funny quirk of nature, the systemic imbalance caused by the introduction of smoke into our body will compel fat to accumulate around the waist, which will increase the risk of contracting Type-2 diabetes.
We'll need a book to write out the effects that the other 7,000 chemicals will have on the body. Suffice to say that they are not good. In fact, they are really bad.
Smoking also affects our skin, sense of taste and smell, and sight. Smokers appear to age faster due to the effects of all the chemicals on the skin and will experience nail discoloration. Taste buds and olfactory systems will be blunted, and our vision will be gradually impaired as well.
Even ten apples a day won't keep the doctor away as long as you are smoking. Always remember, nicotine is a drug which is more potent than marijuana and LSD.