GIrl Smoking
Credit: Urbane Women

Cigarettes are the most traded commodity on the entire planet. More than a trillion cigarettes are traded from country to country every single year. To put this into perspective, that means in cigarettes came in packs of one million, we sell about a million of those packs each year.  High income countries such as the United States have seen the slightest in declines in tobacco smoking, but it's on the rise in the world as a whole. This is largely in part to the steady rising rate of cigarette smokers in medium-to-low income countries.

We've all been showered with the negative stigma that surrounds smoking. People are more educated these days, and most smokers know the risks when they pick up the habit. A lot of good people smoke cigarettes or cigars. So what is the truth about cigarettes?

What's in a cigarette?

America's Lung Association reports that there are over 600 ingredients in cigarettes[3]. Just about anywhere you find cigarettes, you will find an attached label warning you about the dangers of smoking. They leave a lot of the grisly details out. When a cigarette is burned, it sets those 600 ingredients into a medley of over 4,000 chemical reactions. Nearly fifty of these chemical reactions have been confirmed to cause cancer in the human body. 

What are the ingredients, you ask? Let's check out the not so top ten.

  • Acetone- This chemical is normally used for cleaning purposes. It can also be found in paint thinner and nail polish remover.
  • Acetic acid- A main component of vinegar and hair dye. Known for its sour taste and pungent smell. On its own, it would burn human skin upon contact. 
  • Ammonia- Commonly used for fertilizers and cleaning products. 
  • Arsenic- This is the popular choice of poison for movie villains. It's the main ingredient in rat poison, as well.
  • Carbon Monoxide- Invisible,tasteless,colorless gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning is the most common type of air poisoning death in many countries. It's also found in car exhaust fumes.
  • Formaldehyde- Known to be a human carcinogen. Used for embalming fluid.
  • Naphthalene- Used in moth balls. Overexposure can cause jaundice and destruction of red blood cells.
  • Methanol- Also known as wood alcohol. Just 10 mL of methanol would corrode a humans optic nerve and cause blindness. Any more than that results in fatality. It's also used in rocket fuel.
  • Nicotine- Addictive agent in cigarettes also used for insecticides
  • Tar- Yeah, like the kind they use for paving roads. The average smoker inhales about one cup of tar per year.

These are just ten of the hundreds of ingredients in a cigarette. It's hard to believe that so many people burn and inhale a product that contains so many known harmful ingredients. Some do by choice. Many others are forced by the weight of physical addiction. Either way, the tobacco industry has a steady demand for cigarettes thats only growing.

Cigarette Pack
Credit: Morguefile

Who smokes cigarettes?

The World Health Organization reports that we now have over one billion smokers worldwide. [1]They go on to state that nearly half of our worlds children live in an environment polluted by cigarette smoke. Nearly 600,000 nonsmokers die each year due to secondhand smoke. One in three are children.[1] Studies show that there are more male smokers than female. Both male and female smokers tend to start between the ages of 15 and 25.

In low income countries, sometimes up to thirty percent of the countries income will go towards the purchase of tobacco. People of all shapes and sizes smoke cigarettes. Most smokers say they like it because it helps them relax. Others describe the feeling as stimulating. The truth of the matter is, most of the time it's the addiction to nicotine that really keeps smokers coming back for more.

Facing The Truth

It's easy to get lost in the statistics. We could go on and on about the dangers of smoking, but we have to face the truth. Tobacco has entrenched itself as a staple of our population, and its literally killing us. If we don't get the growth of tobacco use under control, we could see the headed for disaster. Some scientists have postured that with our current lifestyles, more than half of the population will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

Our species as a whole has acted irresponsibly with our use of tobacco. Our abuse of the product has taken us down a path of self destruction. If our generation doesn't take a stand, then the next generation will inherit a problem we created.

Cigarettes and Lung Cancer
Credit: Morguefile

The Dangers Of Smoking

Smoking is the attributed cause for one death every six seconds. As this sentence is being written, somebody else will die from cigarettes. From the 20th century to the 21st, tobacco-related deaths have risen %1,000![1]      

Some more numbers from the World Health Organization

  • Tobacco kills almost half of its users[2]
  • Tobacco kills more than six million people each year[2]
  • It counts for one in ten adult deaths.[2]
  • Tobaccos yearly death rate makes it one of the biggest health epidemics in the history of mankind


Kick The Habit!

Are you facing the truth? Would you like to quit smoking? Here's some great tips for kicking the habit and getting on the road to a healthy lifestyle. 

  1. You don't have to quit all at once, 'Cold Turkey' method. Quitting smoking is a battle of small victories. Any time you cut down on smoking it's a victory, even if you just skip one or two during the course of the day.
  2. Try replacing your bodies nicotine intake to kick the habit. This can mean using a nicotine patch, or even just substituting nicotine with a tasty treat like chocolate to give you that little boost during the day. They even offer nicotine gum!
  3. If the patches and chocolate aren't working, ask your doctor if he will give you nicotine pills or prescription strength nicotine patches. Your doctor will most likely be completely on board with helping you kick your unhealthy habit.
  4. Don't do it alone. See if a friend wants to quit with you. Even if nobody does, enlist the emotional support of your friends and family while you embark on the arduous journey of quitting tobacco.
  5. Never give up. Even if you give in to your urges every once in a while, making the conscious effort to quit smoking is the all important first step. Don't let one break define you, keep pushing towards cutting down until the day you can proudly say you are addiction free.