Tobacco smoking is a chronic disease. It is the single biggest cause of death and disease within the European Union (EU), despite the progress that has been made in tobacco control.
Approximately 10 seconds after lighting up, nicotine has been absorbed from the lungs into the bloodstream and has been transported to the brain. It stimulates the Central Nervous System increasing the heartbeat rate and blood pressure, thereby raising the heart’s oxygen requirement.
A report by the Royal College of Physicians found that nicotine complied with the established criteria for defining an addictive substance. The report states: “On present evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that nicotine delivered through tobacco smoke should be regarded as an addictive drug, and tobacco use as the means of nicotine self administration.”
In general, there is a strong relationship between the amount of nicotine smoked by an individual and disease, i.e. heavier smoking for a longer duration results in a higher risk of disease.
The chemicals in tobacco smoke negatively affect almost all organs of the body.
Smoking causes or contributes to mouth cancer, throat cancer, lung cancer, skin damage, psoriasis, heart disease, stomach ulcers, wrinkles, osteoporosis, cataracts, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, leukaemia, sexual dysfunction, infertility and gum disease among others.
The tobacco epidemic is at different stages throughout Europe.
In general, Mediterranean countries have a higher percentage of smokers than Northern countries.
In most countries, the proportion of smokers has changed over the past 20 years, with a decrease in male smokers and an increase in female smokers.
Tobacco smoking is the main preventable cause of death and disease due to respiratory problems worldwide.