Smoking: Long-Term Consequences

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  • 0:01 Chemical Ingestion
  • 0:41 The Composition of…
  • 3:42 Long-Term Consequences…
  • 7:38 Lesson summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, we will look at why smoking is so harmful to your health from a chemical perspective. After that, we will discuss exactly what smoking causes in the long run. You'll be surprised to learn that lung cancer is the least of your concerns.

Chemical Ingestion

You will agree with me, from the outset, that any normal person would almost certainly be completely repulsed by the thought of drinking or inhaling something like nail polish remover or lighter fluid. I wouldn't know for sure, but I can only imagine they taste even worse than they smell.

Likewise, I think we'll be in agreement about the fact that many chemicals that are manmade turn out to be quite harmful to our bodies as a general rule. So then you have to ask yourself, why would anyone, in their right mind, smoke if tobacco smoke contains lighter fluid and nail polish remover? Because that stuff is in cigarettes.

The Composition of Tobacco Smoke

Oh, but it gets worse, my friends, far worse. Tobacco smoke is known to contain over 7,000 chemicals. 7,000! How many more do we need in there? Other than nail polish and lighter fluid, other chemicals in tobacco smoke include:

  • Formaldehyde, which is used to embalm dead bodies.
  • Carbon monoxide, which is that disgusting stuff that comes out of a car's exhaust.
  • Ammonia, the very pungent stuff you may smell when using a household cleaner.
  • Toluene, which is used in paint thinners.
  • Benzene, which is found in gasoline.
  • And, as I was just talking about, butane, found in lighter fluid.
  • And, acetone, the stuff that's in nail polish remover.

Of course that's just the very short list of the stuff you're inhaling when you smoke. Together, all of those chemicals are in tobacco smoke in a very high concentration. What I'm trying to say is that, in a manner of speaking, cigarette smoke is 50,000 times more polluted than urban smog. When many of these chemicals come together, they turn into something you've probably heard of, cigarette tar, which, again, is the brown-black, sticky residue, which is formed when chemicals from tobacco smoke condense together.

Tar includes many of the chemicals in tobacco smoke that are carcinogens. A carcinogen is a substance that causes cancer. It's easy to remember that definition. You've heard of the term Gen X. Gen, found in carcino'gen,' stands for generation or production of something. In our case it means something is made or generated. And the Greek prefix 'carcino-' refers to cancer. So, we get carcinogen, or cancer generator.

Anyways, tobacco smoke contains more than just carcinogens. It contains cocarcinogens, substances that combine with other chemicals to cause cancer, and 'simply' poisonous compounds like arsenic. The other important poison found in tobacco is nicotine, the substance responsible for tobacco addiction. If ingested in high enough quantities, it can seriously hurt a child or even an adult.

This is one reason why tobacco companies launched low nicotine and low tar cigarettes to try and appeal to the 'health conscious' smoker. But it's really silly to think that these are any healthier. It's simple, really why.

The way you smoke is sometimes more important than the type of cigarette, since all cigarettes are extremely dangerous to your health. A low nicotine cigarette won't stimulate a smoker's addicted body as well as a high nicotine cigarette. This means people smoke more, more often, and inhale more deeply to compensate and get the nicotine crave they want. This, in turn, leads to the inhalation of just as many carcinogens as a regular cigarette, if not more.

Long-Term Consequences of Smoking

Now that you are aware of that, it's important to examine what the long-term consequences are of smoking any kind of cigarette. They all lead to the same things in the end. Here are just some of them:

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