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Health effects

Tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive drug. Tobacco smoke also contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds, including at least 43 cancer-causing compounds. Forms of tobacco that are smoked—cigarettes, pipes, and cigars—cause lung cancer, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases. Smoking also contributes to coronary heart disease and, in pregnant women who smoke, low birth weight of newborns. Chewing tobacco and inhaling snuff causes cancer of the mouth, nose, and throat and can lead to nicotine addiction.


Cigarette smoking causes nearly 90 percent of all lung cancer cases. Inhaled tobacco smoke, from cigars and pipes as well as from cigarettes, also comes into direct contact with the tissues of the mouth, throat, and larynx, or voice box. Several studies have estimated that smokers are four to five times more likely to develop oral and laryngeal cancer than are nonsmokers. Studies have also linked smoking with the development of cancer in distant organs—that is, in organs not directly exposed to the smoke, such as the bladder, pancreas, kidney, stomach, liver, and uterus. Smoking also causes health problems in nonsmokers. Each year about 3,000 nonsmoking adults die of lung cancer as a result of breathing the secondhand smoke from others’ cigarettes.


Emphysema, the chronic narrowing and clogging of the airway passages in the lung, is the most common chronic lung disease. Its victims are almost exclusively smokers; it very seldom occurs in nonsmokers. However, not all smokers are susceptible to this disease; only 20 percent of heavy smokers will develop it.


TobaccoPedia website by O.P.

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