Cigarette smoke includes nicotine, carbon monoxide, 43 other carcinogenic substances and more than 400 other toxins. These are harmful substances that are also found in things like wood varnish, nail polish remover and rat poison! Despite it, smoking ranks as the most widely prevalent addictive habit. More than 250 million people smoke worldwide.
Why people smoke may not be detailed here. The fact is, cigarette contains nicotine, which is a psycho stimulant. Inhaled nicotine reaches the brain within 15 seconds and concentrations in brain tissue remain high for about 2 hours. In the brain, it activates the dopamine receptor and increases certain neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, epinephrine and endorphins, which are responsible for mood elevation, improved attention, decreased tension and other effects associated with cigarette smoking. The average dose of nicotine delivered by smoking one cigarette is about 0.5 mg. However, nicotine is highly addictive and the moment one tries to quit smoking s/he starts getting withdrawal symptoms.
The Lesser Known Evils
The cancer causing role of smoking and its harmful effects on the health of heart and lungs are well known. Some of the lesser know ills of smoking too are equally damaging. For instance, smoking reduces fertility in both males and females; in pregnant women it can damage the foetus, retard its growth, cause miscarriage and premature delivery; cataract can set in early and there is risk of macular degeneration leading to blindness; smokers are also more prone to osteoporosis. Just take it that smoking can be damaging to almost all your organs.
To elaborate on smoking and its impact on the skin – know that smoking narrows the blood vessels which supply nutrients and oxygen to the skin, leaving your skin in a state of hypoxia.
- A single cigarette can cause vasoconstriction/narrowing of the blood vessels of the skin for almost an hour. Since smokers tend to light cigarette every 1-2 hours, the smoker’s skin remains hypoxic almost the entire day. Over time, there is loss of glow and lustre of the skin.
- Hypoxia produced by smoking also results in damage to the skin’s collagen and elastin fibres. Decreased skin thickness and loss of skin elasticity are things smokers will have to contend with.
- A smoker’s skin is up to 25 per cent thinner than a non-smoker’s skin. Thinned out skin slowly begins to sag and there will be premature wrinkle formation. An average smoker looks five years older than his healthy non-smoking counterparts.
- The healing and regeneration powers of the skin are affected. Wounds and cuts in smokers heal slowly.
- Nails and lips take a darker shade and fingers take a yellowish tint due to nicotine.
- Certain skin diseases like Psoriasis, leg ulcerations (Burger’s disease), and skin and oral mucosa cancers are also more common in smokers.