Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.; largely because of the 7,000 chemicals found in a single cigarette, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 93 of the chemicals are either directly or potentially harmful to smokers and secondhand bystanders.
Kristin Bennett, health educator, Community Outreach Services, Harris Health System, believes many people don't know or understand how harmful smoking is. She thinks smokers are more prone to quitting when they become aware of the dangerous ingredients ingested from cigarettes and how they affect the body.
Kristin says most smokers ignore or overlook the dangers of smoking because of the addictive properties of cigarettes.
"Smoking is physically and mentally addictive because cigarettes and several other tobacco products contain nicotine," Kristin says. "When a person inhales nicotine, it initiates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain."
Dopamine is often associated with feelings of happiness, concentration, motivation and even euphoria. Therefore, smoking becomes an enjoyable habit and tends to be a daily routine during the workday and at home.
In the U.S., smoking kills more than 480,000 people annually. One out of five American deaths is related to smoking, and it kills more Americans each year than suicides, homicides, AIDS and car accidents combined.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smokers are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease and have a stroke. Despite the known dangers, many people continue to smoke or start smoking every year, especially children and teenagers.
"Some people may not know ingredients in cigarettes include but are not limited to: formaldehyde (commonly used as a preservative), lead, arsenic and ammonia," Kristin says.