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Should Cigarettes Be Illegal?

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Cigarettes are highly addictive, so why are they legal?

Did you know that approximately 5.5 trillion cigarettes are produced globally each year and are smoked by over 1.1 billion people or greater than one-sixth of the world population?

So why do they do it?

The Physiological Reason

The inhaled substances trigger chemical reactions in nerve endings. The cholinergic receptors are often triggered by the naturally occurring substance acetylcholine. Acetylcholine and nicotine express chemical similarities, which allows nicotine to trigger the receptor as well.

These nicotine acetylcholine receptors takes part in two major types of neurotransmission, synaptic transmission and paracrine signaling. This activity increases heart rate, memory, alertness, and produces a measurably faster reaction time after individuals have smoked. Dopamine and later endorphins are released, which are associated with sensations of pleasure and reward.

When tobacco is smoked, most of the nicotine is pyrolyzed. However, a dose sufficient to cause mild somatic dependency and mild to strong psychological dependency remains. There is also a formation of harmane (a MAO inhibitor) from the acetaldehyde in tobacco smoke.

This seems to play an important role in nicotine addiction—probably by facilitating a dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens as a response to nicotine stimuli.

The Psychological Reason

The majority of cigarette smokers start when they are young. Often because of the stigma of smoking cigarettes is cool and has the elements of risk-taking and rebellion.

Most often teenagers are influenced more by their peers than by adults; this means that the attempts to educate about the hazards of cigarette smoking from health professionals, parents and teachers, etc., are often unsuccessful. There also has been research to show that the majority of smokers are sociable, impulsive, risk taking, and excitement-seeking individuals.

The actual habit is a function of operant conditioning. This means that smoking can provide pleasurable sensations (because of its action on the dopamine system). This serves as a source of positive reinforcement. When trying to kick the habit the withdrawal symptoms (irritability, jitteriness, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, mild depression and incapacity to concentrate) become negative reinforcement, which makes giving up cigarettes very difficult.

Often smokers tend to rationalize why they smoke. Smokers tend to think that the benefits of smoking (e.g., reducing stress) outweigh the negative effects smoking have on the body. There also has been research to show that cigarette addiction is very much like heroin addiction. But I’ll get into that a bit later.

How Unhealthy Are Cigarettes?

You only have to look at the ingredients of cigarettes to see how bad they can be for your health.

Cigarettes mainly consist of a tobacco blend, paper, PVA glue to bond the outer layer of paper together, and often also a cellulose acetate-based filter.

Cigarettes can contain over 100 ingredients. Many of the ingredients are flavorings for the tobacco. A key ingredient that makes cigarettes more addictive is the inclusion of reconstituted tobacco, which has additives to make nicotine more volatile as the cigarette burns.

Here is an example of what is in cigarettes:

Here’s a small list of ingredients that any smoker should be concerned about:


Diseases and Health Issues

Smoking is a slow killer, often wearing people down over time. But smoking has also claimed young lives as well.

Cigarette smoke tends to leave toxic deposits in our lungs and other organs, impairing function and poisoning our health. Generally smokers are more likely to be absent from work than non-smokers, and their illnesses last longer.

Smokers tend to incur more medical costs, see physicians more often in outpatient settings, and are admitted to the hospital more often and for longer periods than non-smokers. Also smokers have a lower survival rate after surgery compared to that of non-smokers because of damage to the body's host defenses, delaying wound healing, and reduced immune response.

Smokers are at greater risk for complications following surgery, including wound infections, postoperative pneumonia, and other respiratory complications.

Periodontitis is a serious gum disease that can result in the loss of teeth and bone loss. Smoking is causally related to periodontitis. This may be because smoking affects the body's ability to fight infection and repair tissue.

Peptic ulcers, which are located in the digestive tract (stomach and duodenum), usually occur in people with an infection caused by the Helicobacter pylori bacterium. Among persons with this infection, smokers are more likely to develop peptic ulcers than non-smokers. In severe cases, peptic ulcers can lead to death.

Although only a small number of studies have looked at the relationship between smoking and erectile dysfunction, their findings suggest that smoking may be associated with an increased risk for this condition. More studies are needed, however, before researchers can conclude that smoking is causally related to erectile dysfunction.

Cancer: The primary risks of tobacco usage include many forms of cancer, particularly lung cancer, cancer of the kidney, cancer of the larynx and head and neck, breast cancer, bladder, esophagus, pancreas, and stomach.

There is some evidence suggesting an increased risk of myeloid leukemia, squamous cell sinonasal cancer, liver cancer, cervical cancer, colorectal cancer after an extended latency, childhood cancers and cancers of the gall bladder, adrenal gland and small intestine.

Pulmonary: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) caused by smoking, known as tobacco disease, is a permanent, incurable reduction of pulmonary capacity characterized by shortness of breath, wheezing, persistent cough with sputum, and damage to the lungs, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

Cardiovascular: Inhalation of tobacco smoke causes several immediate responses within the heart and blood vessels. Within one minute the heart rate begins to rise, increasing by as much as 30 percent during the first 10 minutes of smoking. Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke exerts its negative effects by reducing the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.

Smoking also increases the chance of heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, and peripheral vascular disease. Several ingredients of tobacco lead to the narrowing of blood vessels, increasing the likelihood of a blockage, and thus a heart attack or stroke. According to a study by an international team of researchers, people under 40 are five times more likely to have a heart attack if they smoke.

Latest research has determined that cigarette smoke also influences the process of cell division in the cardiac muscle and changes heart's shape.

Tobacco has also been linked to Buerger's disease (thromboangiitis obliterans) the acute inflammation and thrombosis (clotting) of arteries and veins of the hands and feet.

Smoking tends to increase blood cholesterol levels. Furthermore, the ratio of high-density lipoprotein (the "good" cholesterol) to low-density lipoprotein (the "bad" cholesterol) tends to be lower in smokers compared to non-smokers.

A smoker may develop less significant disorders such as worsening or maintenance of unpleasant dermatological conditions, e.g., eczema, due to reduced blood supply. Smoking also increases blood pressure and weakens blood vessels.

Oral: Perhaps the most serious oral condition that can arise is that of oral cancer. Other cancers include cancers of the oral cavity (lip, tongue, mouth, throat), esophagus, larynx, and lung. Roughly half of periodontitis or inflammation around the teeth cases attributed to current or former smoking. Smokeless tobacco causes gingival recession and white mucosal lesions.

Smoking has been proven to be an important factor in the staining of teeth and halitosis (bad breath) is common among tobacco smokers. Tooth loss has been shown to be two to three times higher in smokers than in non-smokers.

In addition, complications may further include leukoplakia the adherent white plaques or patches on the mucous membranes of the oral cavity, including the tongue, and a loss of taste sensation or salivary changes.

Infection: Tobacco is also linked to susceptibility to infectious diseases, particularly in the lungs. Smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day increases the risk of tuberculosis by two to four times, and being a current smoker has been linked to a fourfold increase in the risk of invasive pneumococcal disease.

The usage of tobacco also increases rates of infection: common cold and bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and chronic bronchitis in particular.

The effects on the immune system include an increase in CD4+ cell production attributable to nicotine, which has tentatively been linked to increased HIV susceptibility. Smoking reduces the risk of Kaposi's sarcoma in people without HIV infection.


Dangers of Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is a mixture of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. It is involuntarily inhaled, lingers in the air hours after cigarettes have been extinguished, and can cause a wide range of adverse health effects, including cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma.

Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke increase their heart disease risk by 25–30% and their lung cancer risk by 20–30%. Secondhand smoke has been estimated to cause 38,000 deaths per year, of which 3,400 are deaths from lung cancer in non-smokers.

The current Surgeon General’s Report concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even short exposures to secondhand smoke can cause blood platelets to become stickier, damage the lining of blood vessels, decrease coronary flow velocity reserves, and reduce heart rate variability, potentially increasing the risk of heart attack.

New research indicates that private research conducted by cigarette company Philip Morris in the 1980s showed that secondhand smoke was toxic, yet the company suppressed the finding during the next two decades.

Secondhand smoke is also connected to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Infants who die from SIDS tend to have higher concentrations of nicotine and cotinine (a biological marker for secondhand smoke exposure) in their lungs than those who die from other causes.

While smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of SIDS, infants exposed to secondhand smoke after birth are also at a greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome whether or not the parent(s) smoked during pregnancy.

The nicotine obtained from smoking travels through a woman into her breast milk, thus giving nicotine to her child.

Secondhand smoke has been associated with between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age, resulting in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations each year. It is associated with 430 SIDS deaths annually in the United States alone. In Australia, it is approximately 200 annually.

Secondhand smoke is known to harm children, infants and reproductive health through acute lower respiratory tract illness, asthma induction and exacerbation, chronic respiratory symptoms, middle ear infection, lower birth weight babies, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.

Cigarette Addiction = Heroin Addiction?

Cigarette smoking kills more people every year than a heroin overdose. However unlike heroin, cigarette smoking is legal, and taxed by the government in most places.

Did you know that studies have shown that cigarettes could be as addictive as heroin?

How scary are those facts! Makes you wonder why cigarettes are legal.

Environmental Issues

Another problem with cigarettes is their inability to biodegrade. Depending on environment conditions, they can take as long as 10–15 years to break down in the environment! It is estimated that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered each year, which makes cigarettes and cigarette butts 24.7% of garbage. That is over twice as many as any other item that gets collected as garbage!

Implications of Making Cigarettes Illegal

Ok, so what would happen if governments in most countries made cigarettes illegal?

  • Many cigarette smokers would go through withdrawals. There would be a high demand for selling cigarettes on the black markets.
  • People in cigarette industries would lose their jobs.
  • The governments would no longer gain tax from cigarette taxes.
  • Fewer people would die from cigarette related diseases and conditions.
  • The environment would not suffer as much from littering.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.