With Everything We Know Why Are People Still Smoking?

Smokers will say that smoking improves their mood, helps with depression and generally makes them feel better. The reason for the sense of well-being is that nicotine stimulates dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is responsible for pleasure sensations. The problem is that the more you smoke, the less you experience that sensation, so you need to smoke more to get the same feeling you did when you first started smoking.

Everyone knows that smoking is linked to a huge number of illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke. This article will look at a different side of smoking, the chemicals used in cigarettes, the physical changes in your body, e-cigarettes, the effects of second hand smoke, and the financial cost of smoking


Known carcinogenic chemical compounds in cigarettes

Images of smoking have been found in carved stone dating back to 600 to 900 A.D. Smoking however was not a daily activity and when used by Native American tribes, it was part of religious ceremony and certainly didn’t contain all of the toxic ingredients that are currently used.

This is a small sample of the compounds produced from a burning cigarette. While there are over 600 ingredients that can be used in cigarettes, they are capable of producing over 4,000 chemical compounds, 69 of which are carcinogenic. Some of the chemicals are from the additives themselves, such as pesticides that are sprayed on tobacco crops, while others are formed when these chemicals are burned.

Tobacco Free Life shares this partial list of carcinogenic compounds in cigarette smoke

Acetaldehyde –used to produce acetic acid and butadiene – both toxic substances in their own right

Acrylonitrile – used in manufacture of plastic – toxic in small doses

4-Aminobiphenyl – use prohibited in many countries in the world

Arsenic – potent poison – highly regulated use in all countries in the world

Benzene – benzene is a toxin used as a pesticide. It’s also used in gasoline and explosives manufacture

Beryllium – highly toxic substance that can cause a pulmonary condition called chronic berylliosis – one third of sufferers will die from it while the survivors are left disabled

Cadmium – lethal dose for a rat is 25 mg/m3 – cadmium is used to produce batteries and in processes of nuclear fission

Ethylene oxide – known carcinogen that also causes acute poisoning in higher doses

Formaldehyde – also used for preserving dead tissue in embalming fluids

Furan – increases the risk of hepatocellular and bile duct tumors

Hydrazine – used in rocket fuel, fuel cells, and pesticides

Isoprene – used in production of rubber

Lead – causes microcytic anemia and interferes with cognition

Polonium-210 – highly toxic, radioactive isotope

o-Toluidine – causes DNA damage which results in tumors

Other cigarette ingredients:

Acetic acid – acetic acid can be found in household products such as cleaning wipes, disinfectants, and degreasers. It’s also used for industrial and manufacturing purposes.

Toluene – found in gasoline and used in the manufacturing of explosives.

Naphthalene – a poisonous compound used in production of mothballs.

Hydrogen cyanide – a poison that was used in prison executions.

Acetanisole – a fragrance used in perfume industry.

Methanol – an ingredient regularly found in antifreeze used in car industry.

Methane – gas found in excrement.

Urea – a compound found in sweat and urine.


How smoking affects the body over time

While people are aware of the “bigger” consequences of smoking such as cancer, stroke and increased risk of diabetes, many are not aware of the smaller effects that are also problematic. In 2014 Public Health England (PHE) shared a campaign that highlights how smoking damages the body over time. Here are the details of PHE’s report.

Smoking causes:

Progressive harm to bone mineral density

Progressive harm to the musculoskeletal system including 25% increased risk of any fracture, and a 40% increase in the risk of hip fractures among men

Slower healing time after injuries

Increased risk of back and neck pain, leading to a 79% increase in chronic back pain, and a 114% increase in disabling lower back pain

Rheumatoid arthritis, and a reduction in the impact of treatment

Brain health: current smokers are 53% more likely to develop cognitive impairment than non-smokers, and 59% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease

Dental health: smoking increases the likelihood of tooth loss and decay

Eye health: smoking increasing the risk of age-related macular degeneration by 78% to 358%, and increasing the risk of age-related cataracts

 e-cigarette, smoking

Aren’t e cigarettes safer?

Many people have been duped into thinking that e-cigarettes are a healthier option. Actually researchers have found that some brands of e cigarettes actually contain higher levels of carcinogens than a traditional cigarette, in some cases up to ten times more cancer causing chemicals.

In addition, the FDA has found some e-cigarettes contain an antifreeze chemical called diethylene glycol, along with nitrosamines which are linked to cancer. At least ten chemicals found in E-cigarettes are on California’s Prop 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins such as:

Acetaldehyde Benzene
Cadmium Formaldehyde
Isoprene Lead
Nickel Nicotine
N-Nitrosonornicotine Toluene


The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) recommends that e-cigarettes be included in smoke free laws stating: “Because e-cigarettes are a potential source of pollutants (such as airborne nicotine, flavorings, and thermal degradation products), their use in the indoor environment should be restricted, consistent with current smoking bans, until and unless research documents that they will not significantly increase the risk of adverse health effects to room occupants.”

 smoke cigarette smoke

What about second hand smoke?

The truth is that there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

Because nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing chemicals and poisons as smokers, the sad truth is that since 1964, 2.5 million non-smoking adults have died due to exposure to secondhand smoke.

Here are some additional facts about second hand smoke:

Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20–30%.

Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Secondhand smoke causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths among U.S. nonsmokers each year

Secondhand smoke increases the risk for stroke by 20−30%.

Secondhand smoke exposure causes more than 8,000 deaths from stroke annually.



Smoking-The financial cost

Smoking not only affects your health it has a huge impact on your wallet as well. Cigarettes are incredibly expensive and if you haven’t calculated the cost of this habit you may be surprised at the yearly cost.

According to Tobacco Free Life the cost of actually manufacturing cigarettes is incredibly low. Annual reports from Philip Morris (2012) are 26 cents a pack and R.J. Reynolds (2013) cost 23 cents a pack.

Cigarette prices vary from state to state and from country to country. So let’s look at one scenario. We’ll look at the cost for one smoker. We’ll pick a price on the lower end, and say that a pack of cigarettes cost you six dollars and you smoke a pack a day. We’ll also assume that the price won’t go up (although we know it will) that works out to:

$42 a week

$180 a month

$2,190 a year

$10,950 over 5 years

$21,900 over ten years

$43,800 over twenty years

This is just the cost of the cigarettes, factors such as higher insurance health premiums, doctors’ visits, and medical care needed due to smoking are obviously not factored in here. If both you and your spouse or partner smoke the numbers above double.

This free calculator tool can help you determine exactly how much you are spending on smoking.


So what could you do for yourself and your family with that extra money?




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My Health Maven offers information on a wholistic approach to healthy lifestyle choices.