You are on page 1of 3

Smoking is the inhalation of smoke from burning tobacco encased in cigars, cigarettes or pipes.

This smoke can harm the lungs and respiratory passages because of its heat and dryness, and most importantly, because of the chemicals it contains. Some such chemicals are tars, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nicotine, arsenic and plutonium. Most people who smoke inhale the smoke right down to their lungs. When air enters the body through the nose or mouth, it moves down the trachea. The trachea divides into two bronchi, each of which branch into smaller and smaller tubes called bronchioles. At the end of each bronchiole are tiny air sacs called alveoli. The walls of the alveoli form the respiratory surface of humans. Respiratory surfaces are specialised so that gaseous exchange can occur effectively and efficiently in the body. Smoking can cause damage to the respiratory surface, causing breathing to become difficult. Cigarette smoke contains chemical substances called carcinogens which cause cancer. The main carcinogens in cigarette smoke are a group of sweet-smelling chemicals which are called tar. Cigarette smoke may cause cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, bladder or lungs. Lung cancer is characterised by a growth which develops in the wall of the bronchial tubes. This blocks them, so that breathing - defined as the movements which bring oxygen to a respiratory surface for gaseous exchange and remove carbon dioxide - is hindered. This process, along with gaseous exchange, is essential to humans so that they will have a continuous supply of oxygen which breaks down energy necessary for all body processes. Also, there will be a continual removal of carbon dioxide which can poison cells if left to accumulate. In addition, apart from its cancer-causing effects, tar sticks to the cells in lungs, causing it to blacken and also damages the lung tissue. When a person smokes, tiny particles in the smoke get caught on the lining of the windpipe and bronchial tubes. Extra mucus is produced and the cilia stop beating- smoking one cigarette is said to stop the cilia from beating for one hour. The mucus collects in the bronchial tubes and causes a persistent cough known as 'smokers cough'. If the tubes become infected, the person may get chronic bronchitis. Repeated coughing may cause the delicate walls of the alveoli to break down into larger air spaces. This decreases the surface area for gaseous exchange so the smoker experiences shortness of breath. This condition is known as emphysema. Furthermore, cigarette smoke is associated with stomach ulcers and heart disease. Nicotine is an alkaloid in cigarette smoke which enters the blood, raising blood pressure and heart rate. It also increases the amount of fatty substances in the blood. This, in turn, causes heart disease. Nicotine also reduces air flow in and out of the lungs and paralyses the cilia in the trachea, which remove any dirt, bacteria or other foreign material entering the respiratory tract. It increases the risk of osteoporosis, which is the loss of calcium carbonate from the bones, making them brittle and more difficult to heal when broken. Nicotine also contributes to kidney damage.

Nicotine is the chemical responsible for addiction to smoking. Nicotine stimulates the Dopamine pathways in the brain and relaxes the muscles. When a person associates this relaxation with smoking, it is called psychological addiction. Physical addiction, on the other hand, occurs when the chemical has partly replaced a natural body chemical and so that the body cannot function without it. Carbon monoxide combines irreversibly with haemoglobin in the blood about 203 times faster than oxygen does. This causes a decrease in the oxygen transported by the blood. It takes about 6-24 hours for carbon monoxide to leave the bloodstream. This causes breathlessness and hence, the smoker's ability to take strenuous exercise is drastically. This can also result in the narrowing of the arteries, blood clots, arthritis and heart attack. Statistics show that 25% of smokers die of lung cancer. Also, 90% of persons with lung cancer are smokers. Your risk of lung cancer is directly proportional to the number of cigarettes smoked daily. If a heavy smoker stops smoking, his risk of getting lung cancer gradually falls for a few years until it is about the same as that of a non-smoker. The respiratory system consists of a series of cavities and tubes which suck air into the lungs. Respiration is a vital body process which characterises a living thing. Hence, we must abstain from smoking as it damages our bodies and lessens our life span.

Atwaroo-Ali, L. (2003). CXC Biology. Oxford: Macmillan Publishers Limited. Roberts, M., & Mitchelmore, J. (1988). Biology for CXC. Surrey: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. Tindale, A. Biology A Concise Revision Course for CXC. Stanley Thornes (Publishers) Ltd.