The Effects of Smoking and the Best Alternatives M’sian Smokers MUST Know
In light of Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s proposal to ban cigarettes and other electronic and non-electronic smoking products for Malaysians born after 2005, there has been a spike in conversation and debate about this. . Is this the right decision?
Before diving into a debate, let’s start by understanding the effects of smoking and ways to combat these smoking habits.
Cigarettes are harmful, but why do Malaysians still smoke them? A 2019 survey found that there were 4.8 million Malaysian smokers aged 15 and over, and the majority of them are in the 30-34 age bracket. Yet many people are unaware of the full implications of smoking. If they understand the exact causes of smoking-related illnesses, they may be more motivated to quit smoking altogether.
Burns and cigarette smoke are the real dangers of cigarettes
Tobacco combustion is the main contributor to smoking-related diseases. In a cigarette, tobacco acts as fuel to react with oxygen, creating a self-sustaining combustion process. This leads to three end products: cigarette smoke, heat, and ash.
Cigarette smoke contains high levels of toxins; this is due to tobacco burning at high temperatures. In an article published by the American Lung Association, there are over 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke and at least 69 of these chemicals are harmful. Some of them are carcinogenic like asbestos, arsenic, benzene and formaldehyde.
On the other hand, smokeless products are less harmful because they do not generate smoke, unlike cigarettes. Instead, they generate aerosols by heating. Since there is no combustion of the tobacco, there are no toxic chemicals released by the heating of the tobacco.
Nicotine – the cause of cigarette addiction
Nicotine is one of the chemicals found in tobacco. Contrary to popular belief, nicotine is not the main cause of smoking-related diseases. In fact, nicotine is less harmful than other chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Each cigarette stick contains approximately 10 mg of nicotine; smokers only ingest about 1-2 mg of nicotine per cigarette because they do not inhale all the cigarette smoke. That being said, nicotine is still not without risk as it is the cause of cigarette addiction.
Nicotine has various effects on the body. Nicotine can improve memory and concentration, but it also increases heart rate and blood pressure. Smokers will also experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit. some common symptoms include anxiety, depression, and headaches.
This is why minors should not use or have access to products containing tobacco or nicotine due to the addictive nature of nicotine.
Still, some may find it difficult to quit smoking due to their addiction to nicotine. One feasible approach is to switch to smokeless products that still contain nicotine. These products produce aerosols instead of smoke and are therefore less harmful to health. It can even cause smokers to quit.
Cigarette tar – the residue of cigarette smoke
The combustion of tobacco also generates cigarette tar, a residual product of cigarette smoke when nicotine and water are removed. It is a brown substance that remains in the lungs and accumulates as an individual smokes more cigarettes.
Cigarette tar has been the standardized way to measure cigarette yields, but it does not apply to smokeless products. Indeed, the chemical composition of the aerosol differs from cigarette smoke.
A high or low tar cigarette is generally determined by the amount of tar it contains. High tar cigarettes contain 15 mg or more of tar, and low tar cigarettes contain approximately 1 to 6 mg of tar.
But here’s an interesting fact: low-tar cigarettes aren’t necessarily less harmful.
One of the characteristics of low tar cigarettes is that there are more air holes, but smokers tend to cover them up. This allows them to inhale more nicotine to satisfy their cravings. Smokers will also take longer, deeper puffs to get the same amount of nicotine. The fact is that low tar cigarettes can be just as harmful to your health as high tar cigarettes.
As expected, cigarette tar is also harmful to health. This sticky substance not only coats the lungs, but also stains the fingers and teeth of smokers. Over time, this can lead to diseases like lung cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, etc. Smoking cigarettes too:
The less harmful alternative to cigarettes: smokeless products
To reduce the risk of smoking-related diseases, smokers should either quit smoking or switch to smokeless products. A smokeless alternative is the electronic cigarette; they are battery-powered devices that heat the liquid and turn it into an aerosol. E-cigarette liquid typically contains extracted nicotine, flavorings and other additives. Electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco.
Smokers can also opt for a heated tobacco product (HTP) which produces an aerosol instead of smoke, similar to an e-cigarette. By not burning tobacco, the aerosol contains fewer harmful chemicals than cigarette smoke.
Based on information supported by PMI at the time of writing this article and their Global Head of Professional Channels, Dr. Thomas McGrath, studies have shown that as the temperature of tobacco increases, levels of harmful components and potentially harmful also increase.
“By eliminating combustion and reducing the temperature at which tobacco is heated, we will significantly reduce overall levels of harmful and potentially harmful components.”
Overall, a better understanding of cigarettes can help smokers change their perspective on smoking. Some may be motivated to quit while others may be looking for tobacco harm reduction (THR) strategies because quitting smoking isn’t always so easy.
However, THR is only effective if smokers completely replace cigarettes with its alternatives – partial substitution is futile. Therefore, if regulations and policy guidance can be looked at with a pragmatic approach, practices such as using better alternatives could pave the way for Malaysia to become a smoke-free nation.
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