That smoking is a bad habit which affects our lungs is a well-known fact. If people don’t know something, it is how this habit affects the lungs, which is what we have tried to explain in this article.
Almost everyone is aware of the fact that smoking is injurious to health, and have a rough idea about the harmful effects it has on various organs of the human body. Brain, stomach, skin, teeth, liver … You name it and that organ has to bear the brunt of smoking in some or the other way. The respiratory system is by far the most affected due to excessive smoking. In fact, excessive smoking has the same effect on our lungs as excessive consumption of alcohol does on our liver and kidney.
How Does the Respiratory System Work?
Our respiratory system gets into action as soon as we breathe air through the two vents: nose and mouth. The air travels all the way down to the lungs through the windpipe, i.e., the trachea, wherein the oxygen in it is absorbed and sent to the blood stream. The trachea has tiny hairlike projections known as ‘cilia’ all along it. These projections filter and keep all the harmful particles in the air out of our body.
The trachea, which guides the air to the lungs, is divided into two bronchial tubes, one towards the left and other towards the right. As the air travels down the throat, these tubes start getting smaller and eventually meet the air sacs known as ‘alveoli’. The exchange of gases takes place in these very air sacs, wherein oxygen and carbon dioxide are separated, and oxygen is absorbed by the blood cells and transported to the different parts of the body.
Smoking Effects on Lungs and Respiratory System
Basically, tobacco smoke contains numerous harmful ingredients including nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide. When inhaled, each of these ingredients can result in hazardous effects on our respiratory system, especially the lungs. When the smoke of a cigarette starts entering the respiratory system, it disturbs the cilia in the respiratory tract. As a part of the defense mechanism, mucus is released in the tract in order to avoid any harmful particles from entering the lungs.
At the same time, nicotine constricts the blood vessels and restricts the flow of blood to the air sacs from where it is supposed to be taken to entire body. The cilia, which are in charge of the defense mechanism of the respiratory system, are rendered useless due to the damage caused to them by nicotine. This compromises the person’s immune system and makes him vulnerable to various other disorders.
As the individual gets used to smoking, the tar in the smoke gets deposited all along the bronchial tubes and blocks them, thus making the flow of air difficult. We often get to see people who smoke coughing excessively. This coughing is nothing, but a defense mechanism of the body wherein the lung tries to get rid of the tar accumulated in the bronchial tubes and restore the normal process of respiration. The damage caused to cilia plays a spoilsport here as well, as it makes it difficult for the body to get rid of accumulated tar. This tar has to be cleared off in order to make sure that the air sacs continue to work properly. If the tar is not cleared, the air sacs can suffer irreversible damage.
Over the period, the walls of the air sacs weaken and collapse, thus hampering the gas exchange and resulting in emphysema. As these harmful chemicals in cigarette continue to work on the lungs, the normal cells in lungs turn to cancerous cells. Other than lung cancer, smoking can also result in stroke and heart attack; latter being the most prominent cause of death in people addicted to smoking.
Sometimes the person experiences excessive cough when he decides to quit smoking. Assuming that he is experiencing this cough as he has stopped smoking, he resumes it. He fails to understand that it is actually a sign of the cilia being repaired. When you stop smoking, you are bound to experience such cough. If this cough persists for more than 4 weeks, you should consult a doctor and opt for proper diagnosis.