4. Tobacco Toxins
Cigarette smoke contains more than 3,000 chemical substances, and several of them have been linked to the development pf diseases. The most dangerous substances are (1) carbon monoxide, (2) nicotine, (3) tars, and (4) smoke particles.
4.1 Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that interferes with the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. It also contributes to heart disease and lung disorders and results in changes in the blood vessels that may lead to hardening of the arteries.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, vertigo, dyspnea, confusion, dilated pupils, convulsions and coma.
Carbon monoxide has long been recognized as a dangerous gas. It is present in concentrations of 1 to 5 percent of the gaseous phase of cigarette smoke. The amount of carbon monoxide produced increases as the cigarette burns down. Carboxyhemoglobin (union of carbon monoxide with the hemoglobin of the blood) levels in smokers vary from 2 to 15 percent depending on the amount smoked, degree of inhalation, and the time elapsed since smoking the last cigarette.
Carbon monoxide, which has 230 times the affinity of oxygen for hemoglobin, impairs oxygen transportation in at least two ways. First, it competes with oxygen for hemoglobin binding sites. Second, it increases the affinity of the remaining hemoglobin for oxygen, therefore requiring a larger amount of potential oxygen between the blood and tissues to deliver a given amount of oxygen. This situation usually results in a lower amount of oxygen in the tissues. It should be understood that oxygen is essential for most cellular activities and even a slight decrease can impair all bodily functions.
Carbon monoxide also binds to other iron-containing pigments, most notably myoglobin (a protein molecule found in muscle tissue), for which it has even a greater affinity than for hemoglobin under conditions of low oxygen. Researchers have not yet determined the exact significance of this binding but they do know that it is important in tissues such as the heart muscle, that has both high oxygen requirements and requires large amounts of myoglobin.
Carbon monoxide, at levels of exposure commonly reached by cigarette smokers, has been shown to decrease cardiac contractibility in persons with coronary heart disease. It has also been shown to produce changes like those of early atherosclerosis in the aortas of rabbits.
Nicotine results in stimulation of the nervous system and the heart and other internal organs. The effect on the nervous system is one of the reasons why people have such a hard time giving up smoking. Nicotine is poisonous. When any poison enters an organism, the body is stimulated to eliminate that poison. This condition soon leads to exhaustion and depression of all bodily organs. Nicotine may be a factor behind the many heart attacks and other conditions, including stomach and intestinal ulcers, that are related to smoking.
Nicotine is a colorless, oily, transparent vegetable chemical compound of the type called an alkaloid. It has a hot and bitter taste. It is found in small quantities in the leaves, roots, and seeds of the tobacco plant. It can also be made synthetically.
The quantity of nicotine in most tobacco ranges from 2 to 7 percent. It is most abundant in cheaper and domestic varieties. Nicotine, as mentioned, is exceedingly poisonous. In a pure state, even a small quantity will result in vomiting, great weakness, rapid but weak pulse, and possibly collapse or even death.
Nicotine indirectly affects circulation by provoking catecholamine release. Catecholamide refers to active hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine which are derived from the amino acid tryosine.
They have a marked effect on the nervous system, cardiovascular system, metabolic rate, temperature, and smooth muscle. The ingestion of nicotine induces a bodily response to rid itself of this poison. Thus, the body is stimulated and more catecholamines are released than would normally be the case. Heart rate increases and blood flow through the heart is also increased. The blood vessels going to the heart are constricted (due to the catecholamines) and this increases blood pressure. The presence of nicotine in the blood also results in an increase of serum fatty acids and creates the tendency for blood platelets to stick together. Nicotine also inhibits pancreatic bicarbonate secretions, resulting in a more acid condition in the body. This situation produces adverse systemic consequences.
Tars contain small quantities of carcinogenic substances. They are believed to be one of the major factors that lead to lung cancer and other types of cancer among smokers.
The tar from cigarette smoke has been found to result in malignant changes in the skin and respiratory tract of experimental animals, and a number of specific chemical compounds contained in cigarette smoke were established as potent carcinogens or co-carcinogens. Malignant changes including carcinoma are found in the larynx.
4.4 Smoke Particles
Smoke particles are as small as 1/70,000 inch. A smoker exhales most of the particles, but as many as 25 percent of them may be trapped on the lining of the lungs. The particles are later absorbed by cells in the lining. This absorption may cause the cells to function improperly and damage the lining of the lung. The particles can also cause excessive scar tissue within the walls of the lungs. Smoke particles probably help cause progressive destruction of the walls of the air sacs in the lungs of long-term smokers.
These, irritants cause immediate coughing and broncho-constriction after smoke inhalation; inhibit cilial action of the bronchial epithelium; stimulate bronchial mucous secretion; suppress protease inhibition; and impair alveolar macrophage function.
- 1. History
- 2. The Tobacco Plant
- 3. The Dangers Are Realized
- 4. Tobacco Toxins
- 5. Cigarette Smoking And Chronic Disease
- 6. Added Industrial Pollutants
- 7. Tobacco Subsidies
- 8. Effects On Fetus And Children
- 9. Involuntary Smoking
- 10. Live Healthfully
- 11. Eliminating The Smoking Habit
- 12. Questions & Answers
- Article #1: A Small Fire at One End and a Big Fool at the Other By Dr. Keki R. Sidhwa, N.D., D.O.