| November 2009
||Volume 1, Issue 15
|Welcome to my November Newsletter!
October 12th was Thanksgiving Day and Halloween was on October 31st. I hope you had the opportunity to celebrate these two days with family and friends.
The feature article examines the impact of cigarette smoking on the sexual organs of childbearing women. We will look at ways to overcome nicotine addiction. This week’s question asks how the new electric cigarette functions.
Thank You For NOT Smoking
You know that cigarette smoking is very damaging to your health. Since the early 1960’s there has been an incalculable number of scientific studies indicating a causal link between tobacco and many diseases. The development of lung, mouth, bladder, kidney and pancreatic cancer, heart attacks, strokes…etc can often be traced back to smoking. Even with all this proof, a recent survey estimates that 18% of Canadians smoke. Since the early 20th century, tobacco use by women of the Western world has greatly increased to almost the same level as men’s.
Within the young female Canadian population, those aged 20-24 tend to smoke the most (25.6%). This is of great concern because women tend to be more vulnerable to cigarette smoking than men. Our sexual organs, hormones and body size make us prime victims of tobacco. The number one killer in North America for both sexes is cardiovascular disease, and more than 90% of these deaths can be directly attributed to cigarette smoking.
But where does nicotine come from? And why is tobacco smoking so addictive?
Nicotine is an alkaloid made in the roots of the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae) and accumulates in the leaves (See diagram below). The word “Nicotine” is named after French ambassador Jean Nicot de Villemain who introduced tobacco to France in 1560.
The active ingredient in tobacco is nicotine. A cigarette (meaning small cigar in French) contains about 1 mg of nicotine, cured, finely cut tobacco and reconstituted tobacco. Other substances are also added to this mixture to increase its addictive potency, change the pH, make it burn faster and enhance the flavour. There are 4,000 chemicals in tobacco of which 43 are known carcinogens (i.e., formaldehyde, benzene, cadmium, nitric oxide…etc). There is some evidence that since the late 1990’s the nicotine content of most cigarettes has been increased by 1.6% per year to make tobacco more addictive.
When a cigarette is lit, the smoker inhales the vaporized gas deep into his/her lungs. Nicotine enters the body through the lung alveoli (numbered at about 300 million) and is delivered straight into the blood stream. It only takes about 7-10 seconds for nicotine to reach the brain. There is an almost immediate chemical reaction in the nerve endings, and the smoker experiences increased heart rate, better memory, more alertness, better concentration, appetite suppression and faster reaction time. A few minutes later, dopamine and endorphins are released in the brain and the person experiences a functional high.
Nicotine is only less addictive than crack-cocaine. The long-term smoker has billions more receptor sites for nicotine in his/her brain, thereby increasing cravings for tobacco. A smoker’s nicotine dose can be adjusted to be a stimulant (short quick puffs) or a relaxant (long deep puffs).
The ritual of cigarette smoking is often part of a stress “management” regime. The person removes him/herself from the stressful situation by going outside, the focus is on the cigarette, the breathing pattern is slower and it takes about 7-10 minutes to smoke a cigarette. Smoking in a group gives the opportunity to voice repressed negative feelings, and a chance to bond with other people. By asking a person to quit smoking, you may be removing his/her most reliable form of stress relief.
Women who consume tobacco may damage their sexual organs (see diagram below). If a woman is infected with a high-risk Human Papilloma virus, she is at an increase risk of developing cervical cancer. Tobacco by-products have been found in the cervical mucus of women who smoke, which make it toxic to sperm.
Tobacco negatively affects the ovaries, and less estrogen is released during the menstrual cycle. The periods tend to be shorter, more irregular and fewer eggs are released. Premenstrual symptoms are often more pronounced, which in term may promote cigarette cravings. The fluctuation of hormones during the menstrual cycle makes it more difficult for women to quit smoking. Women smokers tend to have early menopause, making them more prone to osteoporosis.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death of Canadian women. Breast tissue is particularly vulnerable to carcinogens from pre-puberty (i.e., 10 years old) up to the age of first full-term pregnancy. The rapid cell division during that period is a major risk factor for this type of cancer. Breasts are part of the blood and lymph systems, and tobacco’s toxic additives quickly accumulate in them. If a woman smoker breastfeeds her baby, some of the tobacco by-products will be ingested by her baby.
Tobacco can inhibit the production of one of the thyroid hormones, and this effect can lower fertility. It may take up to 1 year for women smokers to become pregnant. They are at increased risks of miscarriages, premature births and low baby birth weight. Also, their babies have a higher incidence of death and developmental problems.
We are all aware of the negative effects of cigarette smoking, yet every day people around the world consume this product. We have to realize that when it comes to human beings, it is very difficult to stop an addictive behavior.
As a non-smoker, I can only say “Thank you for NOT smoking”.
|Until the next issue,
Here are ways to help someone quit smoking:
- Avoid nagging: the person already knows that smoking is an unhealthy habit, and lecturing may create resistance.
- Support any small progress: even if the person smokes fewer cigarettes, it is a step in the right direction.
- Have faith in them: it takes on average (9) attempts to quit smoking. A failed attempt does not means that the person is incapable of giving up tobacco.
- Do not offer cigarettes: even if the person becomes cranky because of the craving for tobacco, offering cigarettes may trigger a relapse.
- Give the right kind of support: everybody is different. Ask the person what kind of support is needed (i.e., talking, walking…etc) to help them through the tobacco cravings.
If you are trying to stop smoking:
- Set a quit date: it will give you time to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for quitting smoking.
- Have a support system: ask the help of friends and family members. This is critical when you are feeling discouraged.
- Get rid of all tobacco products: do not keep a few cigarettes in your proximity because you may not be able to resist smoking them.
- Identify your triggers: do you smoke when you drink coffee or alcohol? Make sure you stay away from these triggers.
- Drink plenty of water: it will help detoxify you body of the tobacco toxins accumulated over time.
- Keep your mouth and hands busy: you may need to carry low calorie snacks (i.e. popcorn) to keep your mouth occupied.
- Exercise: physical activity will help with stress management by stimulating the release of endorphins. Also, it will help prevent potential weight gain when you stop smoking.
- Reward yourself: you should celebrate any step in the right direction.
|Truth in Motion
|You Wanted to Know...
What is an electric cigarette?
The electric cigarette is made by an English company and is popular in Europe. It was introduced in the United States in 2007 and is known as the “Gamucci electronic cigarette”. This device is cigarette-shaped and instead of tobacco, it contains a mixture of nicotine, water and propylene glycol. When the user “smokes”, the built-in rechargeable battery heats up this mixture and a smokeless vapour is expelled by the smoker.
The electronic cigarette is relatively expensive since a pack-a-day smoker pays between $70-$100 US for a 10-day kit. A person can buy cartridges that contain high, medium or no nicotine concentrations.
|Now For Something Completely Different
The smallest bone in the human body is located in the middle ear. The stapes bone resembles a stirrup and is approximately 0.11 inches (0.28 cm) long.
|Benowitz, N. Nicotine Addiction. Tobacco Use and Cessation, 26(3): 611-631, 1999.
Bertone-Johnson, E., Hankinson S. E., Johnson S. R. & Manson J., E. American journal of
epidemiology, Cigarette Smoking and the Development of Premenstrual Syndrome, vol. 168(8):938-945, 2008.
Canadian Children’s Rights Council
Health - Smoking
Modeling The Relation Of Smoking To The Ovarian Function
Overview: Cervical Cancer
Smoking & Cancer Survivorship – The Importance of Quitting
Smoking Creates Major Health Concerns For Women
Soldin, Offie P., Bethany E. Goughenour, Sappho Z. Gilbert, Helain J. Landy, and Steven J. Soldin. Thyroid hormone levels associated with active and passive cigarette smoking. (ORIGINAL STUDIES, REVIEWS, AND SCHOLARLY DIALOG)." Thyroid.19.8 (August 2009): 817(7).
Statistics Canada: Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey
Windham, G. C., Elkin, E. P., Swan, S. H., Waller, K. O. & Fenster, L. Obstetrics & Gynecology, Cigarette Smoking and Effects On Menstrual Function, vol. 93(1):59-65, Jan. 1999.
Women And Tobacco
Young, Erin, Scott Leatherdale, Margaret Sloan, Nancy Kreiger, and Andriana Barisic. "Age of smoking initiation and risk of breast cancer in a sample of Ontario women. (Research)(Report). " Tobacco Induced Diseases. 5.4 (Feb 17, 2009): 4.
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