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Hull City Council

Health issues

Humberside Fire Service
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) accounts for one in five of smoking related deaths. Women carry a far higher COPD risk if they started smoking before the age of 16.
  • Smoking kills more people than any other single cause of death.
  • For every smoker who dies, another 20 are suffering from a smoking related illness.
  • If you smoke, your unborn baby smokes too.
  • If you start smoking when you're 15, your risk of developing the cell mutations that lead to cancer in later life doubles compared to starting smoking at 20.

What's actually happening inside the body?

It all starts in the brain.

Nicotine reaches the brain within 10 seconds of inhaling smoke from a cigarette where it attaches itself onto the brain's working cells called neurons. These cells send messages to a different part of the brain to release stimulants; noradrenalin and dopamine that make the smoker 'feel' more relaxed (although actually they're not because their heart is beating even faster). These feelings don't last long and over time, a person needs to smoke more and more cigarettes to get these feelings back.

When the nicotine levels start to drop, the smoker starts to feel like they need another cigarette. These are cravings, and the stronger the cravings get, the more stressed the person feels.

When the person finally has another cigarette, the whole process starts again.

The more a person smokes, the more they think they need cigarettes and it becomes harder and harder to quit.

Meanwhile, in the heart ...

It's less than a minute since the person inhaled from the cigarette and yet nicotine has already reached the brain triggering the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline makes the heart beat faster and work harder.

Meanwhile, the person's blood is now flooded with carbon monoxide. This means that the blood can't carry as much oxygen as it usually does. Oxygen is needed by every part of the human body and especially by the heart itself.

The heart starts to beat faster and work harder to try and pump enough oxygen around the body. It's now ten minutes since the first smoke was inhaled and the heart is working 30% harder than normal.

To make life even tougher for the heart, the more cigarettes a person smokes, the more fatty deposits build up inside the vessels that carry blood around the body. If a vessel gets completely blocked off, blood cannot flow properly and the person can have a heart attack.

Cancer, coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are the three most serious diseases caused by smoking.

Death by cigarettes

Muscles in the heart need a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood to work efficiently. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen the blood can carry by up to 30%. Over time, smoking damages the heart by overworking it and this disease is called coronary heart disease (CHD). Even light smokers have a higher risk of CHD than non-smokers.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD accounts for 24,000 deaths per year which is more than a fifth of all deaths caused by smoking. The term COPD refers to chronic diseases that interfere with normal breathing. The two main types are bronchitis and emphysema.

Smokers are much more likely to have a stroke than non-smokers. People who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day are four times more likely to suffer a stroke than a non-smoker.

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