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Smoking: The Silent Killer Essay

Today I’m going to talk to you about the silent killer. The world’s most dangerous, most widely used substance of abuse. Forty-six million Americans are addicted to the invisible drug. It is as addictive as cocaine and heroine, yet its makers continue producing and distributing it nationwide.

The invisible drug is hidden within the leaf of a plant. When it’s smoked, it releases over two thousand chemical poisons along with one of the world’s most addictive drugs. The silent killer is nicotine straight from the tobacco plant.

The American Indians were the first people known to cultivate and use tobacco. It was inhaled, smoked, and chewed as early as 100 CE (AD), but has become more widespread since the early 1500’s. The modern tobacco plant had its beginnings in 1609 when the Englishman John Rolfe arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. Dissatisfied with the tobacco grown there {Nicotiana rustica}, he cultivated a new species of tobacco {Nicotiana tabacum}, the species grown worldwide today.

Today there are about 160,000 tobacco farms in this nation. The leading tobacco growing states are North Carolina and Kentucky, followed by South Carolina and Virginia. One reason that led to such a large amount of tobacco growth is that farmers make more money from tobacco crops than they do on food crops. Based on 1979 prices, the profit per acre is $1,198 for tobacco, $233 for peanuts, and $72 for soybeans or corn. Since then, the price for tobacco has grown steadily to over $4,000 per acre.

That said, the tobacco companies combined create an over $45 billion industry. The men who run it are some of the highest paid executive in America, with some earning up to $2.5 million annually. But while the tobacco industry is thriving, the people smoking, chewing, and using the tobacco are not. Teenagers and adults both suffer from tobacco usage, healthwise and costwise. But teens especially are suffering the most. Each and every day 3000 teens begin smoking. Many of them would say, ” If I want to damage my lungs, it’s my own choice”. They’d be surprised to find out that its affecting more than their lungs. Several recent studies have shown the relationship between smoking and other unhealthy behaviors. Health-threatening things like drinking alcohol, driving recklessly (without a seatbelt), trying other deadly drugs like heroine, and unhealthy eating habits.

Why do so many young people start smoking?

There are many factors involved, but there are two things that have the biggest affect. The first is peer pressure. Many teens are willing to do anything to fit in; including risking their own lives. The second is the advertisement from the cigarette companies. Over $10 million a day is spent on cigarette advertising alone. That’s over $5 billion dollars a year. Other reasons include wanting to be independent and easy access to cigarettes. Many teens also have the idea that they can smoke but easily quit when they want to. The truth is that cigarettes are more addictive than we think. Nine out of every ten people who start smoking will become addicted to it and five out of ten people who start smoking will smoke for sixteen to twenty years.

What is it that gets so many people addicted to something so dangerous?

The answer is nicotine. It’s a very powerful, addictive, natural alkaloid drug that comes from the tobacco plant. Nicotine is a major ingredient in most major botanical insecticides. It’s very lethal; one drop of pure nicotine will kill a person in less than five minutes. One drop is the amount of nicotine in about 4 cigarettes. It’s very effective. Over seventy percent of all smokers want to quit but the power of the nicotine overwhelms most of them. Forty-eight percent of those who want to quit have tried but cannot. The quit rate per year for smoking is 2.5%. In contrast, the quit rate for heroine is 30%. One thing that makes it hard to quit is the withdrawal symptoms that come with quitting.

These symptoms include:

“Y Irritability

“Y Anger

“Y Anxiety

“Y Changed Eating Habits

“Y Decreased Heart Rate

Though it may be difficult, quitting is not impossible. There are many different things you can try to help you quit. Things like patches, medication, and gum are other ways to help you quit.

If you continue to smoke, what is happening to your body?

Most people, both smokers and nonsmokers know that smoking is harmful, but most of them don’t know just how harmful it really is. When most people realize the truth, they become much more concerned. There is no safe number of cigarettes a person can smoke that won’t increase the risk of health problems. The smokers’ odds of getting lung cancer or heart disease are 18,000 times better than winning the lottery. When compared to being struck by lightening, or getting killed in a car accident, the risk of lung cancer and heart disease are still higher.

In 1990 smoking was found responsible for 38% of all preventable deaths, making it the number one cause. Preventable deaths caused by things like cocaine and heroine are the tenth cause of preventable deaths. Smoking causes one out of every five deaths. Smoking related diseases will kill 36-40% of smokers. And lastly, most smokers will end up living shorter, more unfulfilled lives because of this deadly habit.

The number one killer of smokers is heart disease. Researchers estimate that smoking causes 30% to 40% of the 717,700 cardiovascular deaths a year. For years it was thought that a smokers risk of dying from heart disease was 3 times higher than a nonsmoker. However, research has shown that the risk is much higher. Carbon monoxide is one culprit in tobacco smoke that causes heart disease. Carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, and starves the heart of oxygen. This is true for smokers and nonsmokers that breathe secondhand smoke.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and more deaths occur from lung cancer than from any other type of cancer. Smoking is the major cause of lung cancer. Smokers who smoke between 1 to 2 packs of cigarettes a day have a 15 to 25 times more likely to get lung cancer than that of those who have never smoked.

Cigarette smoking by pregnant mothers retards fetal growth and is associated with an increased incidence of low birth rate, prematurity, miscarriage, stillbirth, sudden infant death syndrome, and infant mortality. These growth-retarded babies don’t grow well in the mother’s womb because they lack nutrients and oxygen. Smoking during pregnancy causes over 141,000 babies to die annually.

The public has been asleep. The invisible drug has killed more people than from crack, heroin, AIDS, World Wars 1 & 2, and the Vietnam War combined. Since 1964, the invisible drug has taken more than ten million American lives. Some have died quickly — others slow miserable, painful deaths. Million of those that do live, live not knowing about the slowly growing tumor, deteriorating lungs, or impending heart attack that awaits them in the future. The federal government has failed to protect the public from the hazards of the invisible drug. Because they are not doing much concerning the situation, we will have to do what we can to help the situation. Things like writing our representatives, proposing smoke-free environment bills and participating in anti-smoke programs. But one of the best things that I can tell you that will help yourself and your environment is to think, don’t smoke.

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