Tobacco use in Kenya has increased to an estimated 3 million Kenyans aged 15 years and above as per a recent survey. The majority of these tobacco users are males.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) calls tobacco “the single most preventable cause of death in the world”.
Tobacco is a product prepared from the leaves of the tobacco plant by curing them. Tobacco contains tar, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, hydrogen cyanide, metals, ammonia, and radioactive compounds.
One major ingredient is nicotine which is a stimulant drug that speeds up the messages travelling between the brain and body. It may be more addictive than heroin.
Products such as cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, flavored shisha, wet and dry snuff contain dried leaves from the tobacco plant.
There are tobacco products that are used by means other than smoking. This include chewing, sniffing, placing the product between the teeth and gum, or application to the skin.
Effects of tobacco on various parts of your body
Smoking and use of any tobacco product damages your gums. Smoking affects the blood vessels throughout your body. In your mouth, it delays healing after you have a tooth extracted or have oral surgery.
Using tobacco products also increases your risk for oral cancer.
The gums are affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums don’t heal.
Smoking causes people to have more dental plaque and causes gum disease to get worse more quickly than in non-smokers.
Gum disease is still the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.
3. Digestive system
Smoking contributes to many common disorders of the digestive system, such as heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcers, and some liver diseases.
Smoking increases the risk of Crohn’s disease, colon polyps, and pancreatitis, and it may increase the risk of gallstones.
Smoking can affect medicines used to treat high blood pressure. Uncontrolled or poorly controlled high blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney disease.
Smoking slows the blood flow to important organs like the kidneys and can make kidney disease worse.
5. Central nervous system
The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and spinal cord.
When a person smokes, the nicotine/tar mixture gets to the lungs where it is absorbed quickly and reaches the brain about eight seconds after the smoke is inhaled.
It acts on the central and peripheral nervous system. The rapid effects of nicotine include Increases in blood pressure and heart rate.
6. Reproductive system
Men who smoke may experience lower sperm count, higher percentage of deformed sperm and genetic damage to sperm. They are also at risk of impotence which may be due to the effects of smoking on blood flow and damage to the blood vessels of the penis.
Women who smoke are more likely to have difficulty conceiving due to reduced fertility, have irregular or no menstrual flow.
They may also experience early menopause and have an increased risk of cervical and vulval cancer.
7. Respiratory system
Smoking decreases your lung capacity, which can cause a smaller volume of oxygen to reach the bloodstream, resulting in less oxygen getting to the blood.
Smoking is in fact the single biggest cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a term covering for a number of conditions like emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
The chemicals damage the airways and lungs which leads to the development of this long-term condition..
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