Smoking and its consequences

Smoking and its consequences add up to more deaths than any other illness or crime of today's societies.

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The consequences of smoking kill an estimated 440,000 US citizens. Every year - plus alcohol, drug use, homicides, suicides, traffic accidents, and AIDS combined. Between 1964 and 2004, more than 12 million Americans died prematurely of smoking, and another 25 million living American smokers today are most likely to die of a tobacco-related disease.

Smoking cigarettes damages almost every organ of the body. It has been conclusively linked to cataracts and pneumonia, and accounts for about one-third of all deaths from cancer. Overall cancer death rates are twice as high among smokers as non-smokers, heavy smokers with rates that are four times higher than those of non-smokers. The most important of the cancers caused by tobacco consumption is lung cancer. With this cancer has been associated with 90 percent of all cases of lung cancer, the number one killer of cancer in both men and women. Smoking is also associated with cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, cervix, kidney, bladder, and acute myeloid leukemia.

In addition to cancer, smoking causes lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and has been found to help exacerbate asthma symptoms in adults and children. About 90 percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are attributable to cigarette smoking. It has also been well documented that smoking substantially increases the risk of heart disease, including stroke, heart attack, vascular disease, and aneurysm. Smoking causes coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States: cigarette smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than non-smokers.

Exposure to high doses of nicotine, such as those found in some insecticidal sprays, can be extremely toxic as well, causing vomiting, tremors, seizures, and death. In fact, a drop of pure nicotine can kill a person. Accidental ingestion of insecticides by adults and ingestion of tobacco products by children and pets have been reported. Death usually occurs within a few minutes due to respiratory failure caused by the parasite.