A white stick barely three inches long, brown at one end and a menace to mankind. For years cigarette has been one of mankind’s deadliest foes. Millions lose their lives yearly across the globe owing to the ill-effects of cigarette smoking. Cigarette if defined technically, are small finely cut tobacco leaves rolled in thin paper. It is this tobacco in cigarette which causes ample harm not just to the active smoker but also to the passive smoker. Tobacco contains Germacrene, Anabasine and most importantly nicotine which is solely responsible for its addictive nature. When smoked nicotine, a psychoactive, drug enters the lungs and is quickly absorbed by the blood stream and travels to the brain causing addiction to it like that of drugs like heroin and cocaine. Moreover when smoked hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide and ammonia are one of the 7000 chemicals that are produced. Amongst these chemicals, 25069 are carcinogenic. The carcinogenic chemicals in tobacco smoke include arsenic, benzene, beryllium, 1-3 butadiene, cadmium etc.
The World Health organisation (WHO) has put up an estimate that tobacco smoking alone caused 5.4 million deaths around the globe in 2004 and 100 million deaths over the course of the 20th century. A direct connection has been established between tobacco smoking and cancer in human beings. And smoking induced cancers are not just confined to the lungs. Smoking affects each and every part of the human body and has the power to induce cancer in any part of the human body. There are many types of cancers which can be caused by tobacco smoking. Blood cancer, lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer are just to name a few. Apart from these smoking can accelerate the growth of liver cancer and skin cancer and is also being linked with breast cancer and prostate cancer. Moreover nearly 2/3 of the children who are born to women who smoked during their pregnancy are found to have genetic defects which adversely affect their normal growth and development during the later years of their life.
So, how does cigarette smoking kill?
Well, carcinogen laden cigarette smoke causes cell mutation and results in the breakdown of the normal human DNA sequence, which results in tumor formation which more often than not are malignant.
The target group for the most damage done by cigarette is the adolescent, the young adults group. Peer pressure, a strong attraction towards rebellion, an attempt to appear cool… all these factors add up to lead men into smoking at a young age. More often children who have parents who smoke take up smoking at a younger age than those who do not. Family and society have a collective influence on this practice of smoking.
If one has to reduce the number of deaths around the world resulting from the ill-effects of both active and passive smoking a strict ban needs to be imposed on the sale of all the tobacco products specially cigarette because how long will the customary picture of a damaged human lung on cigarette packets keep men from this deadly weapon of death?