Quit & Win
Smoking & Your Health

Why Smoke?

Most of us will be tempted to try a cigarette at some time. We see advertisements which make tobacco seem good, we see people we like smoking on television. Sometimes our friends try and persuade us to have one. On the other hand health experts tell us they are dangerous, ex-smokers are relieved to have kicked the habit and many smokers wish they'd never started. So what are the facts about smoking?

The Facts and Figures

  • In Northern Ireland around 2,500 deaths each year are caused by diseases related to smoking. This presents one in every six of the total number of deaths here, or six deaths every single day.
  • Smoking causes 80.3% of lung cancer deaths. The younger people start smoking the greater the risk but this reduces if you stop.
  • Smoking causes 18.5% of ischaemic heart disease deaths. The risk of having a heart attack is two or three times greater for a smoker than a non-smoker.
  • Smoking causes 75.8% of deaths from chronic obstructive airways disease. The gradual narrowing of the airways and reduced protection in the lining of the lungs leads to difficult and painful breathing.
  • Tobacco is killing more people than illegal drug use, road traffic accidents, suicides, the 'troubles' and AIDS combined.
  • The cost to the Health and Personal Social Services in Northern Ireland is more than £17 million each year.
  • Tobacco costs industry in Northern Ireland around one million lost working days each year. On average, smokers will take twice as many days off as non-smokers.
  • In Germany 10.1% of girls and 10.2% of boys smoke daily at the age of 13. By the age of 15 28.7% of girls and 26.3% of boys smoke daily.
  • In Germany, from a representitive section of the population in 2001 between the ages of 12 and 25, 38% of males and 37% of females smoke.
  • In Iceland in 2003, 21.9% of people between 16 and 89 smoked. 24.9% were male and 19.2% were female.
  • A survey of Spanish teenagers between the age of 14 and 18 showed that 28.8% had used tobacco in the last 30 days. 33.1% of females and 24.2% had used tobacco in the last 30 days.
  • In Spain the average age for a person to start smoking is 13.1 years old.
  • 83.4% of Spanish student smokers have thought about giving up, but only 42.3% have actually tried.

For more information go to http://www.nisra.gov.uk/

What's in a Cigarette?

Tobacco smoke contains around 4,000 chemicals, many of which are known to be harmful.

  • Nicotine: A powerful drug which affects the brain and quickly becomes addictive.
  • Tar: A sticky brown substance that forms when tobacco cools and condenses. This collects in the lungs and can then cause cancer.
  • Carbon Monoxide: A gas that is released from burning tobacco. When it is inhaled it enters the bloodstream and interferes with the working of the heart and blood vessles. Up to 15% of a smoker's blood can be carrying carbon monoxide around the body instead of oxygen.

Other substances in tobacco include Acetone (used in paint stripper), Ammonia (used in cleaning agents), Arsenic (a poison), Butane (lighter fuel), DDT (insecticide), Hydrogen cyanide (used as a method of execution in the USA), Lead, Methanol (rocket fuel), Polonium - 210 (radioactive fallout), Radon (radioactive gas) and Sulphuric Acid.

The Effects of Smoking

On Smokers:

  • Apart from the serious risk to health smoking makes breath, skin and clothes smell.
  • It stains teeth and affects the senses of taste and smell.
  • Very quickly a 'smokers cough' can develop caused by an increase of phlegm.
  • It can affect the skin leading to premature ageing.
  • Smokers spend a lot of money on supporting their habit.

On People around Smokers:

  • They become passive smokers. Smokers only inhale 15% of the smoke from their cigarettes, that leaves 85% in the surrounding air for other people to breath in.
  • Passive smoking can increase the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers by between 10% and 15%.
  • Unfiltered and exhaled smoke in the air can cause eye, nose, throat and chest irritation, headaches, nausea and dizziness.
  • For people with asthma or allergies their condition may be made much worse.
  • Pregnant women, babies and young children are particularly at risk of harm.

If you're ready to give up smoking, click here for some advice...

Ulster Cancer Foundation