Free «Smoking: The Silent Killer» Essay Sample

Smoking: The Silent Killer

The modern world has numerous elements that are incorporated into the lives of people and pose a potential threat to their health. In this context, smoking is an addictive activity that leads to changes in a human body that are associated with various diseases. People in the United States and other countries of the world suffer from the effects of tobacco smoking but do not give up the habit. Various policies that were implemented by tobacco companies in the past contributed to this phenomenon. Smoking increases the risk of developing chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, different types of cancer, and other diseases. These diseases may also be caused by frequent exposure to tobacco smoke. Smoking may be regarded to as a silent killer because it not only leads to fatal diseases in smokers but is also able to affect the health of non-smokers exposed to secondhand and thirdhand smoke.

The Notion of Smoking

Smoking is an activity that has no gender and low age limitations and has been practiced worldwide for centuries. To discuss this issue, the term “smoking” has to be defined. Smoking is the activity of breathing in by “drawing into the mouth, and usually the lungs, smoke from burning tobacco” (West, 2017). It is worth mentioning that tobacco smoke is a product that is most commonly produced by smoking a cigarette, cigars, cigarillos, pipes or water pipes (West, 2017). The process of smoking does not require any specific circumstances and may be performed at any time and place apart from legally prohibited public areas. It should be noted that adults are the main group of smokers; however, children and elder people also smoke.

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A rational explanation of why smoking is a silent killer is based on the continued popularity of tobacco smoking. It should be noted that although smokers are mostly aware of the damage caused by tobacco and many of them state that they do not enjoy the process, they still continue smoking (West, 2017). Therefore, modern medical knowledge associates smoking with a strong addiction. This addiction appears due to the impact of nicotine on certain areas in the brain. As a result, a person often has a strong urge to smoke. This urge is closely connected with the popularity of smoking. Presently, considerable effort is devoted to reduce the popularity of smoking. Nevertheless, the activity is still considered to be one of the major causes of various diseases. One of the reasons why smoking is accepted by the societies regardless of its consequences may be found in the history of tobacco use and official polices that were implemented by the leading tobacco companies.

History of Tobacco Use

Ever since tobacco was introduced to the New World, its products achieved growing popularity among people. Thus, tobacco gained massive popularity during the period of the Revolutionary War, when it was used for loans that were received from France (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). The First and the Second World War also had a great influence on the use of tobacco by soldiers. As a matter of fact, cigarettes were provided as a part of soldiers’ C-rations along with food and other supplements (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). Additionally, cigarettes in the amount of millions of packs were sent to the front lines, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of addicted smokers among soldiers (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). However, tobacco companies were not satisfied with gender limits and thus developed polices to involve women in the process of smoking. As a result, a new cigarette brand was created to appeal specifically to women (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). The brand was known as “Mild as May,” and it contributed to feminizing smoking as a habit. This approach was successful as the number of female smokers tripled by 1935 (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). That was the time when attention was drawn to the matter of smoking from a medical perspective.

Studies on the negative impact of tobacco use were conducted centuries ago. The problem of adverse effects of smoking has been addressed by different scientists. For example, in the seventeenth century, nicotine was associated with danger by a Chinese philosopher Fang Yizhi, who used the term “scorched lungs” to describe the negative consequences of smoking (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). Sir Francis Bacon discussed smoking as an addiction in 1610 even though people did not know about the nature of nicotine and its amount in tobacco (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). Hazards related to smoking were also analyzed in Great Britain in 1761, when pipe smokers were warmed by doctors about the possibility of developing nose cancer (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). In the beginning of the twentieth century, an American physician described a connection between lung cancer and tobacco use (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). These reports raised public interest to the matter of smoking and resulted in intense discussion in medical circles.

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Presently, the government of the United States is concerned about the growing tendency to smoking. Therefore, various studies are conducted in order to determine the effects of tobacco use. One of the studies focused on the risk of death from cigarette smoking and measured it across the time period from 1959 to 2010 (Thun et al., 2013). It was concluded that since the middle of the twentieth century, premature death became a growing concern among male and female smokers in comparison to non-smokers. It was also established that hazards associated with fatal outcomes “have plateaued at the high levels seen in the 1980s” (Thun et al. 2013, p. 1). The fact that people continue smoking even when they are informed about the adverse consequences of the activity may partly be explained by the official policies of tobacco companies in the previous century.

There was a conflict of interests between the medical system and the tobacco industry in the twentieth century. Systematic investigation of this conflict suggests that information related to the risks of cigarette smoking was confronted by the tobacco industry in an effort to discredit scientific studies and research. This idea was developed in many works, which stated that the tobacco industry left a powerful legacy in terms of the modern problem of health impacts of smoking (Brandt, 2012). In other works, tobacco companies compromised healthcare findings by using their influence on political parties and ensured that people continue to smoke (Brandt, 2012). Almost all medical evidence against smoking was thrown into doubt by tobacco companies. The actions of tobacco companies were dedicated to ensuring that smoking was not discriminated. Therefore, even cigarette information committees were developed for this purpose. The goal of these committees was to gain control over medical programs and use research at the service of the tobacco industry (Brandt, 2012). To achieve this goal, they spread information about smoking being “protective against Alzheimer’s disease” and other disorders (West, 2017). Presently, it is affirmed that smoking has opposite effects and leads to development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but in the past such data created a conflict of interests (West, 2017). Some progress regarding informing people about dangers of smoking was made at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Strict regulation of tobacco products helps to maintain a balanced view on the issue on smoking. It should be noted that countless lawsuits were won against tobacco companies. As a result, companies were obliged to state the dangerous effects of smoking in a direct form on the labels of their products (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). Moreover, tobacco advertising is also controlled in order to avoid popularization of smoking. However, companies still make billions of dollars by selling tobacco to approximately one billion smokers worldwide (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). Annual revenue received by the industry is surpassed by the amount of money that is spent on dealing with detrimental effects of smoking and is estimated at trillions of dollars (“History of Tobacco,” 2016). In this context, information on the history of tobacco use helps to understand why people suffer from numerous diseases caused by smoking and what actions and policies contributed to the present situation.

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Diseases Caused by Smoking

There is a wide spectrum of disorders that develop as a result of smoking. These disorders affect different groups of population with slight differences in gender, age, and social status. Most of the health problems related to smoking have an intense symptomatic profile, reduce the quality of life, and even lead to lethal outcomes. Among the most spread diseases are chronic bronchitis, emphysema, lung and oral cancer, and asthma. Continuance of smoking is often a defining factor in the development of the diseases but there are exceptions. In some cases when a patient quits smoking, negative health consequences may be reversed, while in others the damage is permanent.

Chronic bronchitis is considered to be one of the most common health problems that are diagnosed in smokers. According to the American Cancer Society (2017), chronic bronchitis is characterized by intense coughing due to production of mucus in the airways. An obstruction is created in airways, they become swollen and make a person coughs more (American Cancer Society, 2017). Such condition gradually leads to long-lasting (chronic) bronchitis and prevents an individual from living a full life. In this case, smoking is not a silent killer but rather a loud executor because chronic bronchitis may result in developing pneumonia. The research shows that symptoms may be controlled by stopping smoking (American Cancer Society, 2017). However, there is no cure for the disease, and it often progresses with time.

Emphysema is another serious disease that is often diagnosed in smokers. The disease complicates the process of breathing. Patients who suffer from emphysema find it difficult to breathe even at rest due to the reduced amount of oxygen that gets into blood from the lungs (American Cancer Society, 2017). Emphysema may be one of several diseases (for example, pneumonia) that weaken lung functions. In such cases, oxygen should be artificially delivered to organs in order to help people breathe comfortably. Similar to chronic bronchitis, emphysema is incurable but the progression of the disease may be slowed down if a person quits smoking.

Another group of serious diseases that may be caused by smoking is cancer. It should be noted that cancer represents a group of diseases that appear due to uncontrolled cell growth in a body with further penetration of cancer cells in other tissues and parts of the organism (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2016). Smoking is related to cancer because it damages the immune system, which is no longer capable of killing cancer cells. As a matter of fact, tobacco smoke contains toxins which can change a cell’s DNA (CDC, 2016). Thus, 9 out of 10 lung cancer cases are registered among smokers, which corresponds to approximately 80 percent of all lung cancer cases (CDC, 2016). Cigarette smoking is the most powerful factor that leads to this type of cancer; however, pipes and cigars also put people at risk of developing the disorder. As for oral cancer, it develops in individuals who are constant smokers (more than 20 years) (Andrade, Santos, & Oliveira, 2015). It is suggested by studies that the smoking habit plays a significant role in oral cancer (Andrade et al., 2015). Generally, unfiltered cigarettes, pipes and cigars as well secondhand smoking increase the risk of cancer. In turn, both lung and oral cancer can hardly be managed and lead to lethal outcomes in the majority of cases.

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Asthma is also a common health issue among smokers. The disease is not directly triggered by smoking but it often progresses when people smoke. This chronic disease is more common among children than adults; however, it can develop at any age (CDC, 2016). Similar to bronchitis, asthma prevents proper work of airways and leads to coughing and wheezing (CDC, 2016). Additionally, asthma is characterized by attacks that pose danger to the life of a person. It should be noted that asthma can appear as a result of secondhand smoke. Its effects may be reduced by breaking the habit.

The Effects of Secondhand and Thirdhand Smoke

Smoking is an intense activity, and its effects depend on the character of exposure to tobacco smoke. In this context, it is important to discuss the matter of secondhand and thirdhand smoke. In the past, the issue of indirect smoking was not properly addressed. Presently, studies show that tobacco smoke in various concentrations is toxic to smokers as well as non-smokers, including children. It should be noted that secondhand and thirdhand smoke has negative effects on people and may cause different diseases.

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke exposes people to tobacco without them smoking it. In literature, secondhand smoke is defined as a combination of smoke that is inhaled by smokers and smoke that is produced by a burning cigarette (CDC, 2016). Secondhand smoke contains the same toxins that poison smokers and cause disorders. It was estimated that more than 7,000 chemicals are released during the process of smoking (CDC, 2016). Thus, there is no risk-free environment in the presence of a smoker.

One of the most serious issues related to this type of passive smoking is the fact that non-smokers die of the same diseases that smokers do. This notion is supported by the data that was published in the Surgeon General’s Report in 1964. The report showed that approximately 2.5 million people died because of exposure to secondhand smoke (CDC, 2016). Additionally, secondhand smoke has an immediate impact on the work of blood vessels and disrupts their structure. Thus, there is an increased risk (25–30%) of developing heart diseases and having a fatal heart attack (CDC, 2016). Moreover, secondhand smoke is the reason of more than “34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the United States” (CDC, 2016). Apart from heart problems, there is a high possibility of developing lung cancer. Children of smokers are also in danger of having respiratory infections, asthma, middle ear disease, and others health issues (CDC, 2016). Furthermore, secondhand smoke is responsible for high rates of infant mortality. Among 41,000 deaths that are caused by secondhand smoke, more than 400 lethal cases are infant deaths (CDC, 2016). Therefore, it is critical to protect families and friends from adverse consequences of secondhand smoke by either stopping smoking or smoking is special areas only.

Thirdhand Smoke

Thirdhand smoke is a dangerous phenomenon that takes place when some parts of cigarettes or tobacco remain after smoking. Thus, tobacco residue has a tendency to be collected on furniture and other surfaces (American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, 2017). Studies show that tobacco residue includes active components that damage health. Thirdhand smoke is especially dangerous to children, who may be exposed to it on a regular basis, for example, during games in the house of smokers. As it was mentioned above, a safe level of exposure to smoking is practically non-existent.

Smoke contains toxins which harm people even after smoking. The theory was confirmed in a report that was published in 2006, which stated that the process of tobacco smoking produces active toxins (American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, 2017). For example, nicotine undergoes a reaction with nitrous acid and forms hazardous carcinogens that stay on surfaces for weeks and may be “inhaled, absorbed or ingested” (American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, 2017). As a result, non-smokers may suffer heart failure and have an increased risk of developing other diseases (for instance, cancer). Taken this information into consideration, it is advisable to avoid smoking in houses and cars and cleaning places and clothes contaminated with thirdhand smoke.


Smoking is no longer considered to be a social habit but the main factor that leads to problems with health and fatal outcomes among adults of both genders and even children. The history of accepting smoking as a harmful activity is long, and many policies were designed to populate smoking rather than inform people about the implied dangers of tobacco use. Presently, although smokers are aware about the consequences of the addictive habit, the prevalence of smoking is still high. As a result, many individuals develop serious disorders such as lung and oral cancer, chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, and others. These health issues often lead to lethal outcomes. Additionally, the issue of smoking should also be considered in terms of secondhand and thirdhand smoking. Since indirect smoking also has adverse effects, it is advised to take care of the organism and break the dangerous habit.