Smoking tobacco is a major health problem of the modern age. It is a widespread drug addiction (in this case, to a substance known as nicotine). Unfortunately, unlike other addictions, it harms not only the health of its user but also the health of others. The nicotine from cigarette smoke is inhaled, absorbed through the lungs and gets to the brain. This is, however, not the main problem as the nicotine itself is not so harmful. The cigarette smoke contains about one hundred of dangerous substances, many of them clearly carcinogenic. It is assumed that smoking is directly or indirectly responsible for death of about one hundred million people in the twentieth century.


Myth: Passive smoking is much less harmful as active smoking.

Truth: Passive smoking is very harmful when it is frequent. A lot of waiters and waitresses working in a smoke-filled environment have a significantly increased risk of lung cancer.


Myth: Cigarette smoke does not matter all that much compared to fumes from factories and transportation.

Truth: Inhaling cigarette smoke is much more harmful.


Smoking causes formation of harmful oxygen radicals and thereby increases risk of oxidative stress, atherosclerosis and all its cardiovascular complications and cancers such as tongue cancer, lung cancer, laryngeal cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, bladder cancer, cervical cancer and many others. Chronic smoking is related to hoarseness, chronic bronchitis and COPD. In addition, smokers more frequently suffer from peptic ulcers, impaired wound healing, skin aging, dental caries and erectile dysfunction. It is assumed that children of smoking women have increased risk of the sudden infant death syndrome.


The prevention is easy – do not start to smoke cigarettes at all. And when you smoke, do not harm other people by second-hand smoke.


To reduce the health risk, it is necessary to quit smoking as soon as possible. However, like any other addiction, it is not easy to stop. The addiction is composed of both physical and psychical part and the patient’s will is crucial to overcome them.


There is a social psychological dependence on a cigarette as such. The smoker is simply used to a cigarette in certain situations, for example in a restaurant, while reading the newspaper, etc. The solution is to substitute the ritual for another (drinking coffee or tea, etc.).


The physical aspect of cigarette addiction is cause by dependence on nicotine. Smoking cessation leads to withdrawal symptoms like increased irritability, headache, sweating, abnormally high appetite and very strong desire for a cigarette. It is important to substitute the nicotine in cigarettes for nicotine in other forms such as nicotine gums and patches. Electronic cigarette is also popular as it delivers the nicotine without inhaling so many pollutants in the smoke.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources