Made from the cured leaves of the plant genus Nicotiana, tobacco products were primarily used for cultural and religious ceremonies 2,000 years ago. Aside from being smoked and inhaled into the lungs, tobacco is also chewed. This allows nicotine to be absorbed into the bloodstream through the oral cavity into the mucosal tissues.
While it has been around for many years, tobacco smoking became particularly popular in the 1960s when cigarette companies became more aggressive in advertising and promoting their products. This dramatically picked the interest of the consumers. Add the fact that cheap mass production of cigarettes was just starting. Read on and find out how smoking can cause your body to age and other health problems it causes.
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Tobacco use in the modern world
In today’s world, tobacco smoking is commonly used in the form of cigarettes and vapes but still has a bad reputation. Aside from proven facts that it causes premature ageing, which influences our body’s biological age, it also tows a number of health risks. In fact, even being the most preventable cause of morbidity, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), millions of people die each year because of the effects of smoking. While the majority of this census are first-hand smokers, a portion is from second-hand smoke exposure.
If you are a smoker and are concerned about the health risks you are exposed to, you should also be conscious about how it ages your body and start asking, ‘What is my biological age?.’
What does tobacco contain?
The tobacco plant contains different kinds of chemicals. And even though it is true that there are chemical additives incorporated into tobacco products during processing and manufacturing, some are naturally occurring in the plant, and the plant absorbs some as it grows.
Nicotine is the most prominent natural-occurring chemical in tobacco, and chemicals such as lead and cadmium were absorbed from the soil, and the fertilisers used to grow them. Along with these, thousands of chemicals are found in tobacco, of which 250 of them are known to cause certain kinds of health problems, and up to 70 chemicals are suggested to aid the development of cancer.
Here are some harmful chemicals that you get when smoking:
Famous for its addictive property, nicotine is known to have systemic side effects. Aside from being the causative agent in developing hypertension that can lead to a heart attack, it also affects your lungs, kidney, and reproductive system.
This sticky-brown substance is produced when tobacco is burned as it is used while smoking. While it has external implications, such as staining the fingers and teeth, it also accumulates in the lungs, contributing to diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), emphysema, and lung cancer.
Smoking produces smoke which contains a poisonous gas called carbon monoxide. While it is always present, this gas can’t be seen, smelled, or tasted. This toxic gas can stop your blood from carrying as much oxygen, which requires your heart to work harder in order for your organs to get the amount of oxygen they need. This puts smokers at a greater risk of developing heart disease or, worse, having a stroke.
Used in most batteries, cadmium is a chemical that is absorbed from the soil and fertilisers by the tobacco plant. It is present in the leaves when harvested and is a known carcinogen. When you smoke tobacco, cadmium oxide is generated. This byproduct of the chemical is often found in the blood circulation of smokers. It can also be present in the lungs, which is often related to the development of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
Lead is another chemical absorbed by tobacco plants from the soil and fertilisers. Aside from being a primary ingredient in making paint in the past, lead is also commonly used in manufacturing toys, jewellery, pipes, and many common items we use in our daily lives. It is a toxic metal that is easily absorbed into the lungs and is often related to nervous system damage, fertility impairment, and memory problems.
How does tobacco smoking affect ageing?
From being a harmless vice back in the day, the negative effects and systemic diseases caused by smoking have become more evident with the increased scientific studies. This includes concluding that smoking can affect premature ageing, specifically your skin.
Based on a study by the Journal of Dermatological Science, tobacco smoking plays a significant role in causing dermatological problems. Aside from premature skin ageing, dermatological conditions such as melanoma, psoriasis, poor wound healing, and hair loss are some of the problems connected to tobacco use.
Due to the impairing nature of tobacco smoke extracts to the body’s collagen production, and its ability to increase the matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), it causes degeneration in the dermal tissue. This, in turn, speeds up the premature ageing of the integumentary system.
Furthermore, with all the diseases linked to smoking that affect our organs, such as the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, eyes, skin, and many others, it is clear that smoking causes premature biological ageing.
To put it simply, smoking makes you look old. But beyond the external effects it causes, smoking has more other negative health effects that can be fatal.
Smoking tobacco is as common now as it was back in the day. It is practised by many everywhere. So common that the evolution of how it is smoked has evolved into many forms. But as common as it seems, it is always important to remember the negative health effects it causes our bodies and the people who inhale the smoke it emits.
With many diseases proven to be linked to cigarette smoking, it is best to avoid this vice and keep your body in top shape. At the end of the day, we only have one body we should all take care of to live a healthy life.