Smoking is a Major Risk Factor for Most Lifestyle Related Diseases

Smoking or tobacco use is a never-ending topic with increasing prevalence among adolescents. Statistics by the Ministry of Health, Government of Malaysia indicate that smoking is the main risk factor for chronic diseases and is responsible for around 10 to 12% of death in Malaysia. It is also disturbing to highlight that the statistics demonstrate that 50% of males in Malaysia are smokers. This does not only count for Malaysia, but it is a worldwide challenge. According to the American Cancer Society, 480,000 people in the United States alone die from illnesses related to tobacco use each year and smoking cigarettes kills more American than other problems such as HIV, guns, illegal drugs or alcohol.

Smoking is a risk factor in the four main groups of non-communicable diseases that are also related to lifestyle changes – cardiovascular problems, various type of cancer, lung-related diseases and diabetes. Cardiovascular diseases are currently the leading cause of death in the world and tobacco use by smoking increases the risk of having heart disease and stroke by two to four times. Smoking also contributes to chronic lung disease, which can be disabling or fatal and increase the risk of death up to 12 times.

Smoking and diabetes

While diabetes has always been associated with high sugar intake, smoking is another risk factor for diabetes, with 12% diabetes incidents in the United States being attributed to a smoking habit. Smoking is certainly among the main risk factors of type 2 diabetes and smokers are 30% to 40% more likely to develop diabetes than non-smokers. Diabetes sufferer who are also smokers increase their risk of death and other related complications such as amputations and vision problems. Research conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and the Ministry of Health Malaysia found that smoking was a significant factor linked to diabetic nephropathy (diabetic kidney disease).

Smoking and cancer

Lung cancer has always been associated with a smoking habit and it is certainly the main cause of lung cancer. Not only that, but smoking also increases the risk of other types of cancer including mouth cancer, larynx cancer, pharynx cancer, oesophagus cancer, kidney cancer, cervix cancer, liver cancer, bladder cancer, pancreas cancer, stomach cancer, colon/rectum cancer and myeloid leukaemia.

Smoking and respiratory problems

Have you ever heard of “smoker’s cough”? Smoke produced from tobacco contains chemicals and particles which aggravate the airways and lungs. When smokers inhale all these particles and substances, the body forms mucus or starts coughing to clear them from the respiratory tract. The “smoker’s cough” can be an indication of having a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or long-term lung disease and the risk will increase the more and longer we smoke. COPDs include both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis is a condition where the airways produce too much mucus and force the individual to cough and it is a frequent complication for smokers. Emphysema, on the other hand, is a condition that destroys the person’s ability to respire and it can’t be cured. It can only be treated if the person stops their smoking habit.

Smoking and cardiovascular disease

A number of cardiovascular diseases are also attributable to smoking. Smoking causes damage to your heart and blood vessels and increases the risk of getting heart disease or a stroke. Not only that, but smoking also causes high blood pressure and your blood to clot. Moreover, smoking affects your arteries by building up plaque and increasing the risk of having peripheral arterial disease or PAD; a condition of poor blood flow to the arms and legs.

Putting an end to your smoking habit will not only halt preventable chronic diseases but also gradually increase your fitness and well-being. Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your blood pressure and heart rate will decrease, while the level of serum nicotine drops 90% after 8 hours and the sense of smell and taste will improve after 48 hours. Moreover, the risk of having