Studies: Tobacco still stinks

Research on tobacco’s effect on health continues to be popular, even though the results rarely surprise.

The surgeon general’s office issued its 30th report on tobacco in December 2010. The 704-page document describes in detail how tobacco damages every organ in the body, resulting in disease and death. It noted that tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, of which hundreds are toxic and at least 70 cause cancer.

Cigarettes alter a smoker’s DNA within 30minutes of the first puff. The immediate genetic damage raises the short-term risk for cancer. Smokers’ arteries stiffen with age twice as fast as those of nonsmokers. Stiff arteries are more prone to blockages that promote stroke, heart attacks and other cardiovascular disease.

A 55-year-old smoker has the same chance of dying in the next 10 years as a 65-year-old nonsmoker. The number of cigarettes smoked dictates how swiftly health-related quality of life deteriorates, even in those who eventually quit the habit.

Pipes and cigars have an impact on health similar to that of cigarettes, especially on lung function. While cigarette smoking has decreased in the past four decades, pipe and cigar smoking have increased in popularity.