We all know it, but smoking is one of the most damaging things we can do to our bodies. It's not just the smoke itself that causes such harm, but a lethal cocktail of chemicals and additives that make sure we stay addicted.
Which diseases is a smoker likely to get?
As well as a variety of cancers, heart disease and stroke are much more common in smokers than in non-smokers. Bronchitis, emphysema and vascular disease are all more common too.
In Australia, around one-third of cancer-related deaths are directly attributable to smoking. You endanger others around you by smoking – the effects of passive smoking can be as great as actually smoking yourself.
What's in a cigarette?
4-aminobyphenyl, benzapyrene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, nickel, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, N-nitrosoanatabine, N-nitrosoanabasine, tar, 1,3-butadiene, acrylonitrile and benzene are found in cigarettes. And those are just the carcinogenic (cancer-giving) substances. There are a further 28 chemicals on top of these, including carbon monoxide which – in large quantities – can suffocate you.
Am I likely to die from smoking?
Your chances of an earlier death from smoking are much higher than if you don't smoke. There are other negative effects, though. Mothers who smoke during pregnancy have lighter babies who are twice as likely to die during labour and in the first year of their lives. Smoking in itself reduces fertility for both men and women – so if you're trying to conceive, give up. The occurrence of deep vein thrombosis is higher in smokers. And even going on appearances, you'll look better if your skin isn't wrinkled, your fingers and teeth yellow and your breath stale.
But I only smoke joints
Marijuana cigarettes are just as bad for you, if not more so, than standard cigarettes. While self-rolled cigarettes made with loose tobacco might not have quite as many chemicals in them as the ready-made variety, often they are smoked without a filter and so the harmful effects of the tobacco are more far-reaching. There are also health risks associated with the marijuana itself.
Cigars carry an enormous amount of nicotine almost 400 times the amount in a cigarette. However, most of this is not inhaled.
Where can I find more information on stopping?
Visit the Australian Council on Smoking and Health's website.