mobile header

No Tobacco Day | Do not let Tobacco destroy your health

Tobacco use is referred to as one of the major risk factors for many cancers especially oral, head & neck and lung cancers. All tobacco products such as cigarettes, pipe tobacco, cigars, snuff, and chewing tobacco, contain the following:


Tobacco use is referred to as one of the major risk factors for many cancers especially oral, head & neck and lung cancers. All tobacco products such as cigarettes, pipe tobacco, cigars, snuff, and chewing tobacco, contain the following:

  • Toxins (Poisonous substances).
  • Carcinogens (Cancer-causing agents)
  • Nicotine (addictive substance)

Key Points

  • Smoking is the most common preventable cause of cancer
  • Chemicals present in the cigarette smoke enter the bloodstream and can affect the entire body causing different types of cancer
  • There are many ways to quit smoking which is the best thing to improve your health
  • The risk of oral cancer is 5 to 10 times greater among smokers compared to non-smokers. This risk can be potentiated among smokers who consume alcohol.

Forms and Types of Tobacco

There are different forms of tobacco mainly categorised as smokeless and smoked.

  • Smokeless tobacco includes snuff, chewing tobacco (also referred to as oral tobacco), and moist snuff also called snus
  • Smoked tobacco includes pipes, cigars, and cigarettes. Nicotine is absorbed in the oral cavity as the pH of tobacco in pipes and cigars is high (more alkaline). As cigarette tobacco is acidic in nature, it is inhaled into the lungs to get absorbed

Cigarettes are the most popular form of tobacco use. The other forms of tobacco products which are in use include:

  • Cigars and Pipes
  • Electronic Cigarettes
  • Hookahs
  • Bidis
  • Clove Cigarettes

Each tobacco product increases risk for specific cancers such as:

  • Cigarettes : Approximately 90% of all lung cancers are caused by cigarettes. Smokers are 10 times higher at risk for oral cancer than non-smokers. Cigarettes contain over 60 cancer-causing agents.
  • Cigars and pipes : It is often believed that cigars and pipes are a less dangerous form of smoking tobacco. These can cause elevated risk for oral cavity, esophagus, voice box, and lungs cancers. Pipe smokers are at high risk for lip cancers. Furthermore, cigars take longer to burn and contain more tobacco than cigarettes, which increases exposure to second-hand smoke.
  • Chewing tobacco and snuff : Spit tobacco, also known as chewing tobacco or snuff, are tobacco types which are held between the cheeks and the gums. Tobacco chewing can be in the form of leaf tobacco or plug tobacco. Snuff is a powdered form of tobacco, which is usually sold in cans. The nicotine is emitted from tobacco when the user chews.
    Tobacco chewing and snuffing can cause cancer in the gums, cheeks and lips. Cancer caused by smokeless tobacco can be a leukoplakia (a whitish patch that develops within the mouth or throat), or erythroplakia (a dark, elevated patch develops inside the mouth). These can also cause pancreatic and oesophageal cancers.

Nicotine – used as an insecticideCigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco are made from dried tobacco leaves along with added flavoring ingredients that will make smoking more pleasant. The smoke released from these products has a complex chemical blend of tobacco and its additives. Some of these components also cause heart and lung diseases that can be fatal.
Some of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke include:

  • Acetone – found in nail polish remover
  • Ammonia – a common household cleaner
  • Acetic Acid – an ingredient in hair dye
  • Arsenic – used in rat poison
  • Lead – used in batteries
  • Butane – used in lighter fluid
  • Benzene – found in rubber cement
  • Carbon Monoxide – released in car exhaust fumes
  • Cadmium – active component in battery acid
  • Hexamine – found in barbecue lighter fluid
  • Formaldehyde – embalming fluid
  • Methanol – a main component in rocket fuel
  • Naphthalene – an ingredient in mothballs
  • Tar – material for paving roads
  • Toluene- used to manufacture paint

Does Smoking Cause Cancer?

Smoking accounts for death in most types of cancers including nasopharynx, larynx, paranasal sinuses, pharynx, nasal cavity, lip, mouth, esophagus, and bladder. It also has been shown to develop cancers of the pancreas, ovary, cervix, colorectum, stomach, kidney, and some types of leukemia. All forms of tobacco smoking can cause cancer, hence there is no safe way to use tobacco.

  • Chemicals in cigarette smoke can weaken the immune system of the body, making it difficult to fight against cancer
  • It can damage or change a cell’s DNA leading to uncontrolled cell growth causing different types of cancer

Along with cancer, tobacco use cause other diseases such as:

  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic airway obstruction, bronchitis, and pneumonia
  • Reproductive system complications such as ectopic pregnancy, low birth weight, stillbirth, premature birth, reduced fertility in women, erectile dysfunction, and birth defects, including cleft lip or cleft palate
  • Other effects include type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, age-related macular degeneration, blindness, hip fractures, periodontitis, cataracts, impaired immune function, and overall diminished health

Women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer, who smoke are at higher risk for these diseases than non-smokers.
Smokeless tobacco also causes cancer of:

  • Mouth and throat
  • Esophagus
  • Pancreas

Older people who smoke tend to develop the risk for cancer and other diseases more when compared to smokers at a young age. The harmful effects of tobacco not only is shown in smokers but the level of exposure to these diseases is also observed in second-hand smoke or passive smoking. Second-hand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke in adults, and can cause health problems in infants and children, including:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Severe asthma attacks
  • Ear infections

Can Tobacco Use Cause Addiction?

Nicotine is the tobacco agent which can cause dependence or addiction. On average, cigarettes have a total nicotine content of about 8.4 mg, whereas many popular cigar brands can contain between 100 and 200 mg of nicotine.

  • Nicotine enters a person’s brain in seven seconds when inhaled which is twice as fast as intravenous agents
  • Nicotine affects the brain and central nervous system by altering the level of neurotransmitters and chemicals controlling mood, learning, alertness, and concentration
  • Nicotine increases heart rate constraining the blood vessels and therefore decreases circulation
  • Nicotine may act as a stimulant or as a sedative, depending on the nicotine level in the body
  • Smoking also releases endorphins which have a tranquillizing effect. Nicotine tolerance begins to develop in the very first dose which can lead to withdrawal symptoms

Nicotine is a poison and could kill a person by paralyzing the breathing muscles if taken in large doses. Smokers typically take it in small doses that the body can break down easily to get rid of, which is why cigarette nicotine doesn’t kill instantly. The first dose of nicotine causes a person to feel awake and alert, while later doses lead to a feeling of calmness and relaxation. Nicotine can make new smokers feel dizzy or nauseous and frequent smokers who get too much of it. For young smokers, the resting heart rate rises 2 to 3 beats per minute. It also decreases skin temperature and reduces blood flow in the feet and legs. Nicotine plays an important role in increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke among smokers.

How Does Smoking Effect Head and Neck Cancers?

Tobacco use is a major risk factor for head and neck cancers. In smokers, the risk of developing cancer in these areas is significantly higher than in non-smokers. These cancers are rare in people who have never smoked. Most people with these cancers have a history of smoking or exposure to tobacco. Smoke from cigarettes, pipes and cigars all raise the risk of having these cancers including mouth (oral cavity) cancer. People who use both alcohol and tobacco have the highest risk of all.

How Does Smoking Increase the Risk of Oral Cancer?

The chemicals present in the tobacco products cause genetic changes in cells of the mouth cavity developing oral cancer. The risk of oral cancer increases when the mouth is exposed to these carcinogenic chemicals, either by inhaling while smoking or through direct contact through chewing tobacco products. The risk of developing oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers is proportional to the amount of tobacco consumed or inhaled.
Oral tobacco products such as snuff, dip, spit, chew, or dissolvable tobacco can cause cancers of cheek, gums, and lips when used in the long term. These products can also cause gum disease, destruction of the bone sockets around teeth, and tooth loss. It is important to give up on all oral tobacco products for the people who have been treated for oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.

Tobacco cessation

Smoking cessation or quitting smoking is an important factor for your health. The blood circulation begins to improve soon after you quit, and the blood pressure begins to return to normal. Your sense of smell and taste will be improved, so you can breathe easier. Giving up tobacco may help you live longer. The chance or risk of having cancers decreases if you remain smoke-free. Quitting smoking is not easy. You can experience short-term symptoms including weight gain, irritability and anxiety. There are a lot of ways to quit smoke along with step-by-step manuals, therapy, or medications or devices that help reduce the addiction to nicotine.

Quitting smoke at a younger age will improve a person’s health even more when compared to the older adults are long term smokers. The damage caused by smoking is very worse in people who have had cancer. They are at higher risk for developing new cancers, recurrence of cancer, and long-term side effects caused by cancer treatment. Quitting smoking along with unhealthy lifestyle will improve safety and quality of life in the longer term.