From the well-established correlations between tobacco usage and life-threatening diseases to its significant burden on the workplace, tobacco stands as a pervasive threat to global public health.
Understanding the gravity of tobacco’s detrimental effects is crucial for improving the health of your workforce and increasing your business’ success. Let’s delve into the multifaceted reasons why tobacco is so harmful.
Tobacco is bad for your health
The primary reason tobacco is terrible for one’s health is the numerous toxic compounds in tobacco products. According to the National Cancer Institute, tobacco releases over 7,000 chemicals when burned – 250 are known to be harmful. One of these chemicals is nicotine.
A highly addictive compound, nicotine alters brain chemistry while constricting blood vessels, increasing heart rate, and wreaking havoc. Physical addiction prolongs tobacco use and its impact on chronic conditions over time.
Moreover, at least 69 chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause cancer. In a 2010 report from the U.S. Surgeon General, the following chemicals are highlighted:
- Vinyl chloride
- Ethylene oxide
- Aromatic amines
- Tobacco-specific nitrosamines
- Toxic metals like beryllium and cadmium
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
- Hazardous gasses such as 1,3–Butadiene
- Metallic elements like nickel and chromium
- Radioactive chemical elements like polonium-210
Smoking causes cancer primarily because of the presence of carcinogens in tobacco smoke. When tobacco is burned, it releases thousands of harmful chemicals, many of which are known carcinogens—substances that can directly damage DNA and trigger uncontrolled cell growth. These carcinogens are inhaled into the lungs, where they come into direct contact with the delicate tissues, initiating cellular changes that can eventually lead to cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use is a leading cause of various forms of cancer, including:
Other Chronic Conditions
In addition to various forms of cancer, tobacco smoke impairs lung function, weakens the immune system, promotes inflammation, and generally increases the risk of other diseases and chronic conditions.
- Cardiovascular Diseases: Smoking tobacco significantly increases the risk of heart diseases, such as coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and strokes. It contributes to the narrowing and hardening of blood vessels, reducing blood flow and increasing the risk of blood clots.
- Respiratory Diseases: Tobacco use is a major cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Smoking damages the lungs, causing chronic inflammation and reduced lung function.
- Respiratory Infections: People who smoke are more susceptible to respiratory infections like pneumonia, as smoking weakens the immune system and impairs the body's ability to fight infections.
- Complications in Pregnancy: Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and developmental issues in children.
- Vision Problems. Smoking promotes oxidative stress, inflammation, and reduced blood flow in the eyes, contributing to conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Tobacco use has significant negative impacts on the workplace. Firstly, it can reduce overall productivity because employees addicted to nicotine take frequent smoking breaks, which disrupts their work and focus.
Additionally, tobacco users often miss work due to smoking-related illnesses and the time needed for quitting-related medical appointments. This absenteeism strains the workforce, resulting in reduced efficiency and increased costs for employers who may need to hire temporary staff.
Moreover, the economic consequences are substantial. Treating tobacco-related diseases leads to higher healthcare costs for employees and employers, including increased health insurance premiums for companies. These costs also include indirect expenses like disability payments, insurance claims, and the implementation of smoking cessation programs at the workplace.
Tobacco is profoundly detrimental to both individual health and society as a whole. Its association with various forms of cancer, respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, and addiction underscores its impact on human well-being.
Moreover, the harmful effects of tobacco extend beyond the person who smokes to affect those exposed to secondhand smoke. Given these compelling health risks, efforts to raise awareness about tobacco's dangers and support smoking cessation programs remain crucial in safeguarding public health and reducing the devastating toll tobacco continues to take on individuals and communities worldwide.
- Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting. (2017). www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet
- Health Risks of Smoking Tobacco. (2020). www.cancer.org/cancer/risk-prevention/tobacco/health-risks-of-tobacco/health-risks-of-smoking-tobacco.html
- How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease. (2010). www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53017/pdf/Bookshelf_NBK53017.pdf
- Image source