Terrie Hall from North Carolina was only a high school student when she started smoking cigarettes. By the time she was twenty-five she was smoking about two packs a day and started feeling the effects of tobacco, something as little as a sore throat that seemed to never go away. At the age of forty she was diagnosed with oral cancer and began radiation treatments, but didn’t quit smoking during the process because she thought the treatments were taking care of the cancer. Later that same year, she was diagnosed with throat cancer and the doctors informed her that they would need to remove her larynx which would lead to Terrie only being able to speak with the help of an artificial voice box that would be inserted in her throat. She then began to realize that she won’t get to sing lullabies to her 3 grandchildren anymore. Terrie then also feared that she may never get the chance to see them graduate and get married. Terrie worked to educate young people about the dangers and consequences of tobacco use and gave her time and support to several health and advocacy organizations. Unfortunately, the cancer had returned many times after the first time she was diagnosed. This story was taken from “Terrie’s Biography” from the Centers for Disease Control.
Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States alone, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure; this is estimated to be around 1,300 deaths every day (“Fast Facts”). Even with these facts, people are still smoking cigarettes and the companies are still making a lot of money. Many of these people that smoke cigarettes know that it is bad for them, but what they don’t know is how it really affects them and the people around them. There are multiple negative effects of smoking cigarettes such as high costs, and health effects on the smoker and the people around them.
According to the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, nearly nine out of ten adult smokers started smoking before age eighteen, and nearly all started by age twenty-six ("Why People Start Using Tobacco, and Why It's Hard to Stop"). Some of the reasons that people start smoking at young ages is because they want to fit in with their friends, they want to look cool, or they are pressured into it by their peers. The tobacco industry’s ads, and other promotions for its products are a big influence in our society due to the billions of dollars spent each year to create ads that show smoking as exciting, glamorous, and safe (“Why . . . Stop). These ads are also targeting our youth with their ads by making them appeal to the younger generation. Nicotine is a very large part of why people keep smoking once they have started. When taken in small amounts, nicotine causes pleasant feelings and distracts the user from unpleasant feelings which makes the tobacco user want to use more (“Why . . . Stop”). This acts on the chemistry of the brain and central nervous system, affecting the smoker’s mood and allows dopamine to flood to the brain (“Why . . . Stop”). Overall, nicotine affects a smoker’s behavior, mood, and emotions and if a smoker uses tobacco to help manage unpleasant feelings and emotions, it can become a problem when someone tries to quit ("Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking").
Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of a smoker in general. Smoking can cause lung disease by damaging your airways and the small air sacs found in your lungs (“Health . . . Smoking”). Another disease related to lung disease is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is an obstructive lung disease that makes it hard to breathe and can cause serious long-term disability and early death ("10 of the Worst Diseases Smoking Causes"). The early symptoms of COPD are shortness of breath, an ongoing cough, wheezing, and tightness in the chest ("Smoking and COPD"). As COPD progresses, the symptoms include: trouble with breathing, blue or grey lips, trouble with mental alertness, an irregular fast heartbeat, swelling in feet and ankles, and weight loss (“Smoking and COPD”). About eighty percent of all COPD is caused by cigarette smoking and is the third leading cause of death in the United States (“10 . . . Causes”). One of the last major diseases smoking can cause is heart disease. With heart disease, smoking can cause blockages and narrowing in your arteries, which means less blood and oxygen flow to your heart (“10 . . . Causes). Some of the effects of heart disease are chest pain, heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke (“Heart Disease and Stroke”).
Cancer is another major effect when it comes to smoking. Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body, a few of which include: bladder, blood, cervix, colon, esophagus, kidney, larynx, liver, pancreas, stomach, trachea, and lung ("Health . . . Smoking"). There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 250 are known to be harmful ("Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting"). Of the 250 chemicals that are known to be harmful, there are 69 chemicals that could cause cancer, some of these include: hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, chromium, and arsenic (“Harms . . . Quitting”). The main way that smoking causes cancer is when the chemicals enter the bloodstream and damages our DNA, including key genes that protect us against cancer (Health . . . Smoking”). Each cigarette can damage the DNA in cells, but it is the build up of damage in the same cell that can lead to cancer (“Harms . . . Quitting”). It is proven that for every fifteen cigarettes smoked there is a DNA change that could cause a cell to become cancerous (“Harms . . . Quitting”). Each cigarette you smoke makes a difference, this shows why it’s better to give up smoking sooner rather than later.
The cost of cigarettes is another negative effect of smoking. The average cost in 2015 on cigarettes in Minnesota was $8.10 per pack but can get up to $12.85 per pack in some states like New York and within a year, you will spend on average approximately $2,550 on cigarettes (“Fast Facts”). Not only does the cost affect the individual, but it also affects the economic cost of smoking. The economic costs are more than $300 billion a year, including about $170 billion in direct medical care for adults, and more than $156 billion in lost productivity due to premature death and exposure to secondhand smoke (“Fast Facts”).
Another negative effect of smoking cigarettes is secondhand smoke. When nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke (SHS), it’s called involuntary smoking and nonsmokers who breathe in the smoke take in nicotine and toxic chemicals the same way smokers do (“Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke”). The more SHS you breathe, the higher the levels of harmful chemicals that will enter into your body. When someone breathes in the smoke of someone smoking near them, it can leave that person vulnerable to almost all the same risks of that person smoking the cigarette (“Health . . . Smoke”). Secondhand smoke can cause the following cancers: lung, larynx, pharynx, brain, bladder, rectum, stomach, and breast (“Health . . . Smoke”). Health risks such as lymphoma, leukemia, liver cancer and brain tumors have also been linked in children that have been exposed to SHS (“Health . . . Smoke”). Secondhand smoke is something that the people being affected have no control over, and they shouldn’t have to worry about their health due to other people's choices.
If Terrie Hall would have been informed on all the risks that smoking held, she may have thought twice before she started smoking. In the later stages of her cancer, she truly started to feel the effects that smoking had on her life. Terrie Hall died on September 16, 2013 from smoking related cancer, at the young age of fifty-three (“Terrie’s Biography”).