Deakin Communicating Science 2016

EES 200/101

Where there’s smoke..

In life there’s always the possibility we may take a risk and take a puff or two of a cigarette. But one thing we know for sure is that smoking has serious health risks. Whether you’re a binge smoker, a casual smoker, there is always a significant health risk that comes along with it.

In my last blog I discussed how processed meat and red meat increased the likelihood of developing certain cancers. In this blog I want to expose how smoking – in anyway also increases your risk of developing lung cancer.

 

What makes smoking so dangerous?

Tobacco smoke has more than 7000 chemicals, 250 are known to be harmful to the human body and 69 of the 250 chemicals can cause cancer.

Three of these chemicals are cyanide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.

Now to make my point more clear:

  • Cyanide is a chemical compound used in pesticides, plastics, mining and dye. In high doses cyanide it is deadly – it was even used by Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun as a way to end their lives.
  • Carbon Monoxide does this ring a bell? As in carbon monoxide poisoning? Inhaling this chemical at high rates through smoking is enough to cause poisoning.
  • Formaldehyde Remember those practicals at uni with the preserved animals in the glass jars? Well this is the liquid they are preserved in.

 

These are just three of the dangerous chemicals in tobacco smoke, no human should inhale a chemical that deceased specimens are kept in.

 

The statistics behind the smoke

Smoking can cause cancer in almost every organ of the body, a few being mouth, throat, nose, liver, kidney and even bone marrow. But the most predominant is lung cancer. More than 80% of cases of lung cancer are due to smoking.

 

In 2012 there we almost 8,200 deaths caused by lung cancer – 4882 males and 3,255 females.

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How does smoking lead to lung cancer?

Lung cancer forms simply from the change in one cell. This change comes from what we know as the p53 gene. The p53 gene is found in the nucleus of every body cell, and obviously the nucleus houses our DNA. The p53 gene codes for a protein which regulates the cell cycle and works to supress tumours – which basically means they supress cancer.

 

When you have a cigarette you are inhaling many carcinogens and one found in tobacco smoke is benzo pyrene, this chemical has been shown to directly affect the p53 gene. Benzo pyrene reacts with the DNA in the nucleus of the cell and permanently damages it, the cell will then continue to mutate. The benzo pyrene sticks to the DNA and interrupts the normal transcription/replication process and cannot make any healthy DNA.

 

When this cell with damaged p53 then goes to replicate as part of normal cell division it will create even more damaged cancer cells. Because the p53 gene cannot destroy these cells they go on to form into a lung cancer tumour.

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The social implications of smoking

Not only can smoking damage your health but can also damage your opportunities and overall reputation.

 

Negative social implications of smoking:

  • Your chance of becoming employed – many employers (especially in hospitality) avoid hiring smokers.
  • It make clothes smell of smoke which is highly irritable to people with allergies.
  • The expense of smoking takes away from being able to do other activities with friends.
  • Obtaining an apartment is hard because many landlords prefer non-smokers.
  • Some non-smokers prefer to avoid smokers especially if they are allergic or pregnant.

People say that smoking is a way to reduce stress… but is it worth all the health risks and social complications?

For some people yes – for me no.

When I was just four years old I witnessed my grandfather pass away from thyroid cancer which was exacerbated by smoking.

Don’t let yourself be another statistic.

 

Later on we will cover how leading a healthy lifestyle can decrease your risk of developing cancer.

 

References:

Australian Government Department of Health 2012, P53 Fact sheet, Australian Government, retrieved 20 April 2016, <http://www.quitnow.gov.au>

Cancer Australia 2016, Lung Cancer, Australian Government, retrieved 21 April 2016, <https://lung-cancer.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics>

CTV News 2012, Large anti – smoking warning now on cigarette packs, CTV News, retrieved 20 April 2016, <http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/health-headlines/larger-anti-smoking-warnings-now-on-cigarette-packs-1.844025>

National Cancer Institute 2014, Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting, National Institutes of Health, retrieved 21 April 2016, <http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet#q1>

Quit Victoria 2016, Does smoking cause cancer?, Quit Victoria, retrieved 21 April 2016, <http://www.quit.org.au/about/frequently-asked-questions/how-does-smoking-affect-my-body/does-smoking-cause-cancer.html#mainmenu>

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3 comments on “Where there’s smoke..

  1. sebastiandayhenri
    May 3, 2016

    Interesting blog! I think we can all agree on the adverse health effects of smoking, and how it damages nearly all parts of the body. I think there is an interesting debate going on about whether cigarettes should be made completely illegal or not, or if we should continue simply raising taxes associated with smoking.

    Some councils have suggested banning smoking in public places such as cafes and restaurants (http://neoskosmos.com/news/en/uproar-over-proposed-smoking-ban) with negative feelings from many people saying things like “It’s not fair, we choose to smoke, and if you don’t like it stay home or sit inside”. Do you think this a valid statement to make, or is it unreasonable to put non smokers at risk of second hand smoke when sitting outdoors at a cafe?

    In regards to potentially making tobacco completely illegal, we can say that is an extremely damaging and costly hobby, that has very minimal justification in doing it, so we could ban it. This would most certainly lower the number of smokers in Australia, and therefore lead to a healthier population, and less strain economically on health services. On the other hand, this could be seen as taking freedom away from the populace, and would undeniably result in the black market trade of tobacco. A great deal of strain would be put on the police force, as there would be an entirely new form of substance that has be considered when talking about resource distribution. Do we want our police spending time looking for ‘criminals’ who are smoking cigarettes, or should that time be put to an arguably more important cause, such as reducing the circulation of ice (meth-amphetamines) on the streets?

    I think its difficult to come to any conclusions or compromises when we are talking about peoples health, but the debate will continue to go on forever. Once again, interesting read, you might find some more information on the topic here: http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/

    Thanks for your post!

    Like

  2. taratylinski
    May 4, 2016

    Hi there, interesting topic.
    Having been around smokers my whole life, it’s certainly not the nicest thing to be around.
    One thing I was wondering about was the levels of the chemicals you mentioned: cyanide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. While I can see that they are bad for you, is there anything in relation to the amount of it taken that may make it more or less dangerous? For example, Cyanide-containing substances do occur naturally in fruits and other things, as well as being in the air we breathe, water and soil [1]. This site also outlines Minimal Risk Levels (MRLs) for inhalation and oral consumption of cyanide, so there are most likely certain levels for all of these substances that are marked as where it starts to become dangerous, or lethal. Perhaps you could discuss this compared to the amount found in cigarettes, and relate to exactly how much harm is being caused.

    [1] http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxguides/toxguide-8.pdf
    http://www.tobaccoinaustralia.org.au/chapter-12-tobacco-products/12-3-labelling-of-tar-nicotine-and-carbon-monoxide

    Like

  3. samnang2016
    May 8, 2016

    Thanks for the very informative blog post. It was quite interesting knowing about the p35 gene that suppresses tumors and how it’s damaged every time from smoking. I’m not against smoking but it does kill, not just the smoke but also the people who second hand smoke.
    Thankfully people are becoming more aware of the dangers of smoking at an early age due to the Australian Government running health programs, campaigns and warnings in regards to the lethality of smoking.
    From memory Australia is the only country in the world that has plain packaging! Which is a step forward to reduce smoking in our country.

    Like

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This entry was posted on April 24, 2016 by in Uncategorized.

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