Tobacco and Health

Ephidrina recognizes that all drugs are dangerous. She even understands why some of them are illegal. But she knows for sure that they don't come much worse for human health than tobacco.

The active ingredient in tobacco is nicotine, an alkaloid with a biphasic effect. Inhaled in short puffs, cigarette smoke is a pleasant stimulant, and in deeper drags, a soothing sedative. In larger doses, nicotine is highly poisonous. It contracts the blood vessels and raises blood pressure, while increasing the level of carbon monoxide in the blood, thus inhibiting the supply of oxygen to the muscles. So just one cigarette can undermine your energy levels.

Depending on who you believe, tobacco kills somewhere between 25% and 50% of its regular users. The leading causes of death are lung cancer and heart disease. It's also linked with cancers of the larynx, oral cavity, esophagus and bladder, and in women, with cancer of the cervix. It's also known to cause chronic brochitis and emphysema. When you consider that about a third of people in the West smoke, this makes it the single biggest preventable cause of death in the developed world.

Tobacco does not kill quickly. It gradually undermines your health over the years, eroding your fitness, hammering your respiratory system and sapping your vitality. Smokers age prematurely, and are more susceptible to infection. A large number die of causes not directly attributable to tobacco, which would probably never have killed them if they didn't smoke cigarettes.

The worst thing about tobacco, for Ephidrina, is the powerful addiction. There are no half-measures with tobacco - you either smoke or you don't. Even if you smoke just four or five a day, you miss them desperately when you try to stop. The habit is in some ways harder to break than heroin, because you are constantly faced with temptation: in bars, in shops, at parties and with friends.

Help is at hand for those who want to quit. There are a number of therapies on the market, mostly of the brainwashing variety. These aim to convince you that you really want to give up, and they usually use a combination of aversion therapy and old-fashioned common sense. Ephidrina had most success with Allen Carr's method - even though she started again, it did provide alot of useful tools for controlling the addiction. Nowadays she only smokes occaisionally - and she doesn't roll joints with tobacco, either!!

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© 1998 E J Turner - All Rights Reserved Tobacco in History Home Tobacco Politics