Each year the Word Heath Organization holds World No Tobacco Day on May 31. This year’s theme is “Tobacco and Lung Health.” Lung disease occurs from long-term exposure to irritants interfering with the main function of the lungs. The job of your lungs is to bring oxygen rich blood to the rest of the body and remove the waste products when you exhale. The irritants can take the forms of tobacco, air pollutants, smoke, heating fuels, dusts, gases and fumes. Tobacco product use from smoking cigarettes, aerosol from e-cigarettes and secondhand exposure are the most common causes of lung diseases including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
There are more than 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke. Smoking a cigarette not only circulates toxic chemicals throughout your body but also displaces oxygen in your blood with the deadly gas carbon monoxide. This deprives your organs of the oxygen they need to function. When your organs do not have oxygen, they do not function properly. It can be more difficult to think, breathe or even move.
E-cigarettes are not harmless. They are a relatively new tobacco product. Evaluations of e-cigarettes continue to find many negative impacts on health. Aerosol from e-cigarettes, also called “vapor,” was once thought to be just water. Vapor has been found to have small particles and some of the same toxic chemicals found in cigarettes. All of these irritants damage the lungs. In addition, the flavoring found in nicotine liquid for e-cigarettes has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for foods we eat, not to be breathed in. When the flavoring is heated, it changes into chemicals that are harmful to the lungs.
Secondhand smoke exposure is associated with disease and premature death in nonsmoking adults and children. This secondhand smoke is also dangerous to the health of your pets. Secondhand exposure occurs from inhaling tobacco smoke and aerosols from e-cigarettes smoked by others. Thousands of adults who were nonsmokers have developed lung cancer or lung disease because exposure to secondhand smoke. When exposed, children are at risk for leukemia, lymphoma, brain tumors, asthma, ear and lung infections and sudden infant death syndrome. There is no-risk free exposure to secondhand smoke.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that irritates and narrows the airways in your lungs. The inflammation makes the airways swollen and very sensitive. The airways tend to react strongly to inhaled irritants. When the airways react, the muscles around them tighten and swelling occurs making the airways even smaller. There may also be mucous production in the airway further reducing air that can come in and out of the lungs. There is no cure for asthma and a flare up can happen at any time. A person may get asthma or asthma can worsen from tobacco smoke exposure. An asthma attack can be mild with a small amount breathing obstruction or life threatening when the lungs are not able to move any air.
COPD is an umbrella term used for multiple chronic lung diseases. These diseases often start with cold-like symptoms that advance to limit the airflow into the lungs causing excessive mucus production, “need for air,” and chronic cough. COPD is life-threatening causing difficulty breathing and eventual death from lack of air. This primary cause of COPD is tobacco smoking and there is no cure for COPD.
Lung cancer is a condition that causes cells to multiply in the lungs uncontrollably. This growth of cells creates tumors that reduce a person’s ability to breathe. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death. Smoking is responsible for two out of every three lung cancer deaths globally. Secondhand smoke increases the risk of developing lung cancer in people who have never smoked. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of lung cancer and the risk falls to approximately half after 10 years of being smoke free.
The best way to protect your lungs and ensure lung health is to never start using tobacco or avoid secondhand smoke exposure. If your already addicted to tobacco, the sooner you quit, your lungs can begin to heal. Quitting can also lower the risk of getting other cancers and after 12 hours, carbon monoxide is reduced in the blood allowing more oxygen to circulate to your organs. For free help to quit smoking, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW, go to www.smokefree.gov or enroll in Freedom from Smoking classes at Carson Tahoe Health by calling 775-445-7651.
It is never too late to quit the tobacco habit.
Let us make a world without tobacco. Join us in participation in World No Tobacco Day on Friday. For additional resources and information about our Department programs and services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cchhs, follow us on Twitter @CCHealthEd, call us at 775-887-2190 or visit us at 900 E. Long St. in Carson City.