This is Sarah Long.
And this is Bob Doughty with SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a VOA Special
English program about recent developments in science. Today,
we tell about the health effects of smoking tobacco products.
We also offer advice about how to stop smoking.
Artwork by a student in Yavapai County, Arizona
(Image - cdc.gov)
For many years, scientists have warned that smoking tobacco
is bad for your health. Yet people around the world continue
to smoke. The World Health Organization estimates that almost
five-million people around the world die each year from the
effects of smoking. That number is increasing. W-H-O officials
say tobacco use will kill more than eight-million people a year
by two-thousand-twenty if nothing is done to control the problem.
In the United States, more than forty-six-million adults currently
smoke. American health experts say tobacco use is the leading
preventable cause of death in the United States. This year,
an estimated four-hundred-forty-thousand Americans will die
of diseases linked to smoking.
Smoking tobacco is the leading cause of lung disease. Smoking
also has been linked to heart disease, stroke and many kinds
of cancer. The American Cancer Society says smoking is responsible
for about eighty-seven percent of all lung cancers in the United
States. The group adds that smoking is a major cause of cancers
of the mouth, esophagus, kidney, bladder and pancreas. Scientists
have identified more than forty chemicals in tobacco smoke that
cause cancer in humans and animals. Smokeless tobacco and cigars
also have been linked to cancer.
American government health experts say smoking affects not
only the smoker. Women who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy
are more likely to have babies with health problems. Pregnant
women who smoke are at risk of having a baby who weighs less
than normal. Low birth weight babies have an increased risk
of early death and may suffer from a number of health disorders.
Experts say tobacco smoke also affects the health of people
who do not smoke. Smokers may harm the health of family members
and people at work when they breathe out smoke from cigarettes.
This is called ¡°second-hand smoke.¡±
Tobacco smoke causes an estimated three-thousand non-smoking
Americans to die of lung cancer each year. Tobacco smoke also
causes lung infections in as many as three-hundred-thousand
American children each year.
The American Cancer Society says there is no safe way to smoke.
It says smoking begins to cause damage immediately. All cigarettes
can damage the body. Smoking even a small number of cigarettes
Nicotine is the major substance in cigarettes that gives pleasure
to smokers. Nicotine is a poison. The American Cancer Society
says nicotine can kill a person when taken in large amounts.
It does this by stopping the muscles used for breathing.
The body grows to depend on nicotine. When a former smoker
smokes a cigarette, the nicotine reaction may start again, forcing
the person to keep smoking.
Studies have found that nicotine can be as powerful as alcohol
or the illegal drug cocaine. So experts say it is better not
to start smoking and become dependent on nicotine than it is
to smoke with the idea of stopping later.
Most people who smoke have heard about the harmful effects
of cigarettes. Some of them decide to smoke fewer cigarettes.
However, most smokers find that is difficult. Experts say menthol
cigarettes are no safer than other tobacco products. Menthol
cigarettes produce a cool feeling in the smoker¡¯s
throat. People who use menthol cigarettes can hold the smoke
inside their lungs longer than smokers of other cigarettes.
As a result, experts say menthol cigarettes may be even more
Other smokers believe that cigarettes with low tar levels are
safer. Tar is a substance produced when tobacco leaves are burned.
It is known to cause cancer.
In two-thousand-one, the National Cancer Institute released
a report about low tar cigarettes. It found that people who
smoke these cigarettes do not reduce their risk of getting smoking-related
diseases. In fact, some people who use low tar or low nicotine
cigarettes often smoke more. The report found no evidence that
changes in cigarette design and production during the past fifty
years have improved public health.
It is not easy to stop smoking permanently. However, doctors
say you probably will live longer if you do stop smoking. You
will feel better and look better. You also will protect the
health of family members and others who breathe your smoke.
The American Cancer Society says the sooner smokers stop smoking,
the more they can reduce their chances of getting cancer and
other diseases. It says blood pressure returns to normal twenty
minutes after smoking the last cigarette.
Carbon monoxide gas levels in the blood return to normal after
eight hours. After one day, the chance of heart attack decreases.
After one year, the risk of heart disease for a non-smoker is
half that of a smoker.
Experts say there are several products designed to help end
a smoker¡¯s dependency on cigarettes. There are several
kinds of nicotine replacement products that provide small amounts
of the substance. These can help people stop smoking.
For example, smokers can place small, specially treated pieces
of material on their skin. They can chew or swallow other products
that contain nicotine. Or they can breathe small amounts of
nicotine through their nose or mouth.
A drug to fight depression has proved effective for many smokers.
Depression is the mental condition that causes extreme sadness
and hopelessness. The anti-depressant drug is called Zyban.
It does not contain nicotine. The drug works by increasing levels
of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine produces feelings
of pleasure. Studies have shown that Zyban reduces the urge
to smoke for some people.
There is strong evidence that people who have suffered from
depression are much more likely than other people to smoke.
The same is true for people who have brain disorders such as
schizophrenia. Doctors say these people can think better and
feel better when they are smoking. It also is much harder for
them to stop smoking than it is for other people.
We have some other ideas to help you stop smoking. The American
Cancer Society says there is not just one right way to stop.
It says one method or a combination of methods may be successful.
They include attending self-help programs or following directions
in a book. The group says any way to stop smoking that is legal,
moral and effective is worth trying.
To stop smoking, you should carefully plan your actions for
at least one week. Try to stay away from people and situations
that might trouble you. Do not go to public places where people
are smoking. If you drink alcohol, you probably will need to
stop drinking temporarily. Many people lose their inner strength
when they drink alcohol.
Many experts say it is best to stop smoking completely. Even
one cigarette can make you a smoker again. In the first week
or two without cigarettes, you probably will feel terrible.
You may be angry all the time or you may feel sad. You may have
a headache or your stomach may feel sick. Do not lose hope.
If you stay away from tobacco, those feelings will go away in
a few weeks. Tell yourself that you will be happier as a non-smoker.
Tell yourself that nicotine should not control your life.
Move around as much as possible. Go for a quick walk or a run
at least two times a day. Walking or running will make you breathe
deeply. This will help clear the nicotine from your body. Also,
when you have the urge to smoke, you could chew gum or eat a
piece of fruit or vegetable instead.
For a long time, you will continue to have periods when you
really want a cigarette. Yet these times will come less often.
One day, you will recognize that you have won the struggle against
This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written and produced by
George Grow. This is Sarah Long.
And this is Bob Doughty. Join us again next week for more news
about science in Special English on the Voice of America.
This Science Report is published courtesy