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Smoking and Lung Disease

-According to the World Health Organisation, cigarette smoking is the major avoidable cause of ill health and premature death.

If affects all aspects of health, and in particular the upper respiratory and the lungs which are the first parts of the body to feel the direct effects of smoking.

Cigarette smoking is the major cause of chronic obstructive lung disease which is mainly associated with chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Both of these diseases produce prolonged lung disability which in approximately 85% of cases will eventually be the primary cause of death.

Heavy smokers, that is those who smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day, run a greater risk of lung disease and lung cancer with the risk increasing as more cigarettes are smoked.

Whilst pipe and cigar smokers experience a lower death rate from chronic obstructive lung disease and lung cancer than cigarette smokers, the risk is still there and is statistically higher than for non-smokers.

Up until recently the death rate for men compared with women was greater. However, the female death rate is now catching up because of the increased number of women smokers. This death rate will continue to rise as young women are being encouraged to smoke. It will take several decades to confirm the higher incidence of lung disease and mortality in the female.

Often in the early stages, the young smoker may show no obvious effects. However, with a family history of lung disease, including asthma, early indications of future lung problems will be present.

A persistent cough with the production of sputum is the first important sign of trouble. This is due to an inflammatory response of the airways to cigarette smoking. Because the small tubes become clogged with mucus breathing becomes impaired. The young smoking sports persons cannot compete with a non-smoker of similar sporting ability.

Whilst tar is the main factor producing cancer of the lungs, it is the carbon monoxide gas phase of smoking that impairs oxygen transport and utilisation.

With prolonged exposure to smoking, chronic obstructive airways disease occurs leading to chronic air flow obstruction and a further and rapid deterioration in the ability to breathe.

Lung elasticity is lost emphysema or stretching of the lung tube occurs. This can be compared to the loss of elasticity in a simple rubber band which if stretched too much, loses its ability to return to its normal shape.

In chronic smokers with emphysema this loss of elastic tissue further reduces the ability to forcibly breath in and out. In order to obtain a satisfactory supply of vital oxygen, the chronic smoker has to draw more breaths than the non-smoker.

Cigarette smoking is associated with an increased incidence of respiratory infections and deaths from pneumonia and influenza in the older and long time smoker.

The final sequence of events leads to malignant changes in lung cells eventually leading to lung cancer and death.

- How to Stop Smoking - Passive Smoking
- Smokeless (Chewing) Tobacco - Smoking and Heart Attacks
- Smoking and Lung Disease - Smoking and Pregnancy
- Stopping Smoking

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