Dangers of Smoking Tobacco – E-Cigarette Alternatives

Nicotiana tabacum, better known as cultivated tobacco, is the main plant species used in making cigarettes, cigars and other smokeable tobacco products. The plant contains numerous phytochemicals, the most prominent of which is nicotine. It binds with the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the body and leads to the release of dopamine and serotonin, among other neurochemicals. The release of these two organic chemicals work as neurotransmitters and are responsible for the feelings of pleasure and happiness, which helps to explain why tobacco is one of the most addictive and hard to quit substances known to man.

Second hand smoke – the most argued social danger of tobacco
Smoking tobacco imposes a lot of dangers – both social and health related. One of the most argued social dangers associated with smoking tobacco is second-hand smoke – a mixture of smoke from the burning end of the cigarette, that lingers in the air hours after the cigarette has been extinguished. Inhaling second-hand smoke can cause adverse health effects when done on a regular basis. Studies show that non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke either at home or work increase their risk of developing tobacco-related health issues.

Another major social issue related to smoking that does not get as much coverage – primarily because the public is so preoccupied with second hand smoke – is residential fires. In fact, a recent study from the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at the University of California suggests that smoking tobacco is the leading cause of both residential fires as well as fire related deaths.

Leading cause for pulmonary damage and cancer
However, aside from the social effects, smoking tobacco is also detrimental to the human body. Long-term smoking is believed to be one of the leading causes for pulmonary damage, leading to the loss of elasticity of the alveoli as well as the development of pulmonary diseases such as emphysema and COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Unfortunately, smoking tobacco affects more than just the lungs; the inhalation of tobacco causes several immediate responses within the heart and blood vessels. As a result, long term exposure may lead to variety of cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease and stroke. Strokes are caused because smoking tends to reduce the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.

Another primary health risk of tobacco consumption is the possibility of developing many various types of cancer, particularly lung, throat, larynx, brain and neck cancer. Smoking tobacco causes several other health issues, including: oral, infectious, psychological and cognitive related health risks.

Invention of the Electronic Cigarette
A variety of products like nicotine gums, patches and drugs were designed to help smokers quit, but at best, their effectiveness can be argued. In a recent study, conducted by Harvard School of Public Health and Boston Center for Survey Research, Hillel Alpert, research scientist at HSPH, said that “using NRT is no more effective in helping people stop smoking cigarettes in the long-term than trying to quit on one’s own.” The truth is that there was no real alternative for smokers who either couldn’t or wouldn’t quit smoking, but did want to reduce the social and health impact of their habit. That is, until 2003, when a Chinese pharmacist was credited with the invention of the electronic cigarette. E-cigarettes have come a long way from their initial version, and nowadays more and more smokers are choosing electronic cigarettes over conventional tobacco. The electronic cigarette introduced a healthier way of smoking and a way to significantly reduce the negative social and health impact credited to traditional tobacco cigarette smoking. Electronic cigarettes are non-polluting, non-flammable and non-carcinogenic. The smoker inhales just nicotine vapor, completely eliminating the tar and tobacco found in the tobacco cigarettes. The micro-electronic technology of an e-cigarette provides the user with a real experience of smoking – without affecting the environment and the people around. Normal cigarettes release about 4000 harmful chemical substances in addition to nicotine. With an electronic cigarette, this is avoided because their ingredients are not cancer-causing.

The best possible alternative to smoking
Due to the fact that electronic cigarettes are smoke-free, their usage is allowed in bars, restaurants, airports and other public places, where conventional cigarettes are banned. E-cigarettes give off no smoke, producing only water vapor that rapidly disappears  after exhaling. Consequently, the social impact of secondhand smoke is non-existent when using an electronic cigarette. Another advantage of the smoke-free electronic cigarette is the lack of the smell of smoke, which can be bothersome to both smokers and non-smokers.
The electronic cigarette alternative also results in fewer health risks, that are associated with conventional cigarettes – e-cigarettes contain no tar, carbon monoxide or many of the other harmful chemicals that are found in tobacco cigarettes.

Electronic cigarettes are the best possible alternative for smokers -  significantly decreasing or completely eliminating the more serious problems caused by conventional  cigarettes. And last, but not least -  electronic cigarettes are drastically cheaper than traditional cigarettes.

Photo credit: 意钻 Izuaniz / Foter / CC BY-NC

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