01 | 18 | 2011

U.S. Surgeon General’s Report Details the Damaging Effects of Brief Exposure to Tobacco Smoke

The U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin recently released a report titled How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease. The report shows that even brief exposure to tobacco smoke – including through secondhand smoke or occasional smoking – causes immediate cellular damage and tissue inflammation that can lead to serious illness or even death.

The report provides evidence on how smoking causes cardiovascular disease and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and aortic aneurysm. In addition, just brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease, heart attack, damage to blood vessels, and blood clots.

The report details how the chemical mixture in tobacco smoke immediately inflames the lining of the lungs which over time leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema. Additionally, repeated exposure to tobacco weakens the body’s ability to heal this damage.

When releasing the report, Benjamin noted that, “The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale causing damage immediately. Inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer.”

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, of which hundreds are toxic and over 70 are cancer-causing. One third of cancer deaths in the U.S. is tobacco-related and smoking causes more than 85% of lung cancers. Exposure to tobacco smoke decreases the benefits of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

The report also touches on why cigarettes are so addictive. Today’s cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine more quickly and efficiently than cigarettes in the past.

To read the full report, click here. (http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/tobaccosmoke/index.html)