Advice from Shaukat Khanum Specialists: Smoking Kills

Did you know that smoking shisha or chewing tobacco is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes? Here’s a report by Dr. Faheem Mahmood Butt, Consultant Pulmonologist at Shaukat Khanum Hospital, about the harms of tobacco consumption in general.

Smoking is a worldwide hazard. It is one of the single most important causes of preventable, premature death. According to WHO figures, there are about 1.3 billion smokers in the world. That’s one third of the world population, out of which 12 % are women. Smoking is declining in many western countries. In the U.S. the national smoking rate has decreased to almost half over the last three decades. However, smoking is on the rise in developing countries like Pakistan, India, Philippines, Thailand and Cambodia.

Every year 5.6 million people die of tobacco/smoking related diseases. Every 6 seconds a current or former smoker dies. 70% of smokers die younger than non-smokers. In the 21st century, 1.3 billion people will die of smoking.

All forms of tobacco consumption are dangerous and addictive. This includes smoking cigarettes, the pipe, cigars and Shisha. Chewing and sniffing tobacco is also harmful, as tobacco contains poisonous and cancerous chemicals which cause mouth, gum and throat cancers.

Nicotine present in tobacco smoke causes addiction by increasing the levels of chemicals like Dopamine and Endrophine in the brain. These chemicals give a sense of happiness hence there is craving for tobacco products. If a person tries to quit, withdrawal effects include irritability, anxiety, depression and lack of concentration.

Tobacco and tobacco smoke have about 4,000 chemicals, 200 of these are poisonous and 60 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer (carcinogens). Some of these chemicals are, benzene (a petroleum product), ammonia (used in dry cleaning and toilet cleaning), formaldehyde (a chemical used to preserve dead bodies and) and Tar. Tobacco smoke causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the blood vessels) leading to heart attacks or strokes. It also contains carbon monoxide which decreases oxygen in the blood.

Among the many adverse affects of smoking and tobacco use are osteoporosis, stomach ulcers, early ageing of skin and sleep disturbances. Here are the most common ways smoking kills:


90% of people who develop lung cancer are current or former smokers. The risk of lung cancer increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day; ie. 1 pack per day smokers are at a higher risk than half pack per day smokers. It also increases depending on how long someone has been smoking for, ie. a person who has smoked for 20 years is at a higher risk than one who smoked for 10 years. In the U.S., lung cancer causes more deaths than breast cancer, prostrate cancer and colon caner combined.


Smoking is also a known cause of many other cancers like throat cancer, esophageal cancer, stomach cancer, cancer of the pancreas, breast cancer, kidney cancer and prostrate cancer.


Smoking causes medical conditions called emphysema and bronchitis (COPD). In these conditions, the lung tissue is permanently damaged, so that patients develop a cough, difficulty in breathing and sometimes also symptoms, which mimic asthma. Patient suffering from COPD easily contract lung infections like pneumonia. In this case, the lungs cannot produce enough oxygen, which ultimately, leads to breathing failure and death.


Tobacco smoking is a leading cause of heart attacks. Smokers have twice the risk of developing a fatal heart disease. Tobacco smoke has chemicals, which causes hardening of the blood vessels with plaque formation (atherosclerosis). This blocks the blood supply to the heart muscle resulting in heart attack and death. Smoking also increases the risk of strokes, with smokers being three times more at risk of having strokes.

Don’t Underestimate Second Hand Smoking!

A person who smokes not only harms himself but people around him like coworkers and family members who are at a high risk of developing cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung infections. Children of smokers are at risk of developing asthma, bronchitis, sinus infections and mental retardation.

“I CAN’T QUIT,” is the most common response when a smoker is asked to quit. “YES YOU CAN QUIT,” should be the answer. “HOW?” –By understanding the ill effects of smoking, and by becoming aware that you are not only poisoning your self, but also your family and friends by exposing them to second hand smoke.

Help is available. Consult your physician or GP who will be able to advise you about nicotine products like patches, gum, the spray or medication which can suppress withdrawal symptoms.

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