There are over a billion people who smoke tobacco around the world, which makes it one of the most popular psychoactive substances used in society.
The majority of tobacco users smoke cigarettes, but some smoke cigars or pipes, chew tobacco, or practice snuffing, which is where ground-up tobacco leaves are pushed up the nose.
Given the popularity of tobacco as well as its negative health consequences, it’s considered one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease worldwide.
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 toxic chemicals.
These toxins cause endothelial cell damage which creates inflammation along the inner lining of arteries.
The inflammation increases the risk of having a myocardial infarction (or heart attack), a stroke, and peripheral vascular disease which causes severe pain in the lower legs.
The toxins in cigarette smoke can also cause pulmonary problems when they’re deposited into the lungs, as they damage the lung tissue and increase the likelihood of developing a lung infection.
Finally, cigarette smoke contains many different carcinogens including ammonia, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide, all of which are associated with cancers of the mouth, throat, lung, bladder, pancreas, and uterus.
Combining these effects, a heavy smoker who smokes two packs of cigarettes each day for 20 years loses about 14 years of life.
Despite the negative consequences of smoking, most people continue to smoke because tobacco contains nicotine, a tiny, fat-soluble molecule that creates pleasurable psychoactive effects and is extremely addictive.
Nicotine is considered “responsible” for the high rates of tobacco dependence and addiction, while the 4,000 other chemicals and compounds are “responsible” for the negative health effects associated with smoking.