480,000 people a year, or 1,300 a day die prematurely due to complications related to smoking. This makes cigarettes, a tobacco product, the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The reason cigarettes, and their more recently developed counterparts, vapes, are such captivating habits, is nicotine. The chemical nicotine found in tobacco is extremely addictive.
Why Nicotine Is So Addictive
Nicotine consumption releases dopamine in the brain. The more people consume nicotine through cigarettes, or otherwise the more their brain begins to anticipate dopamine “hits” from these behaviors. Over time this pattern becomes harder and harder to break as the individual starts craving the dopamine rush that is associated with smoking.
The body soon develops a tolerance for nicotine and the amount needed to produce a surge of dopamine increases. Since cigarettes contain a higher concentration of nicotine, teens who start are vaping may be inclined to switch to the old-school method for this reason.
Nicotine addiction is not harmful in it of itself; however smoking, the habit perpetuated by this addiction, has many terrible consequences that are known. Lung cancer and heart disease are among the two leading killers. The alveoli, the pearl-like structures at the end of the lungs responsible for oxygenating our blood, of smokers are known to look like clusters of grapes shriveled on the vine.
Smokers lungs can turn black. Their voices can become dark and raspy. They are more likely to develop gum disease and all the inflammatory conditions associated with periodontitis. This is a brief outline of the various ways smoking can kill people before their time.
Why Nicotine Products Are Still Legal
Many people are apt to point out the hypocrisy of the government concerning tobacco products. “How are cigarettes legal and pot isn’t? Look at the cigarette’s death toll, weed only causes a nefarious, yet harmless high,” they say. There is a long history of lobbying by prominent tobacco companies, which have kept their products on the shelves. It is important to remember that tobacco was once the cash crop upon which the southern economy relied.
To learn more about this story watch the movie Thank You For Smoking. It uses satire to lighten the dark tale of tobacco companies trying to suppress the medical research that demonstrated the harm their products were causing. Now, at the very least tobacco products containing the addictive compound nicotine must be adorned with the ubiquitous surgeon general’s warning.
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