Tobacco drug abuse is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. The harmful effects of tobacco drug abuse extend far beyond the smoker. Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause serious diseases and death. Between 1964 and 2004, tobacco drug abuse caused an estimated 12 million deaths, including 4.1 million deaths from cancer, 5.5 million deaths from cardiovascular diseases, 1.1 million deaths from respiratory diseases and 94,000 infant deaths related to mothers smoking during pregnancy. According to the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC), tobacco drug abuse results in more than 443,000 premature deaths in the United States each year-about 1 in every 5 U.S. deaths-and an additional 8.6 million people suffer with a serious illness caused by smoking. So, for every one person who dies from smoking, 20 more suffer from at least one serious tobacco-related illness.
Tobacco drug abuse contains the addictive drug nicotine. Nicotine is readily absorbed into the bloodstream when a tobacco product is chewed, inhaled, or smoked. A normal smoker will take 10 puffs on a cigarette over a period of 5 minutes that the cigarette is lit. So a person who is involved with tobacco drug abuse smokes about 1 ½ packs daily to get 300 puffs of nicotine each day. When nicotine enters the bloodstream it immediately stimulates the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline). Epinephrine stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood pressure, respiration, and heart rate. Glucose is release into the blood while nicotine suppresses insulin output from the pancreas, meaning that smokers have chronically elevated blood sugar levels. Tobacco drug abuse through the main ingredient nicotine increases levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which affects the brain pathways that control reward and pleasure. For many who are involved with tobacco drug abuse, long term brain changes are induced through continued nicotine exposure and result in addiction.
Tobacco drug abuse also results in about one-third of all cancers, including 90% of lung cancer cases. In addition to cancer, tobacco drug abuse also causes lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, heart attack, vascular disease and aneurysm. Tobacco drug abuse has been linked also to leukemia, cataracts, and pneumonia.
Tobacco drug abuse is a chronic disease that often requires multiple attempts to quit. Some smokers are able to quit without help, many others need assistance. Generally, rates of relapse of tobacco drug abuse are highest in the first few weeks and months and diminish considerably after about 3 months. Both behavioral and medications can help someone quit their tobacco drug abuse. Quitting tobacco drug abuse can be difficult but the health benefits of stopping are immediate and substantial. The benefits of stopping tobacco drug abuse are reduced risk of cancers, heart disease and stroke.