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Tobacco is obtained from the tobacco plant Nicotiana tobaccum and Nicotiana rustica. The dried and cured leaves of its young branches make the commercial tobacco used worldwide. Addiction to tobacco is due to ‘nicotine’ an alkaloid present in it. Nicotine is a stimulant, highly harmful and poisonous substance.
Tobacco is used for smoking, chewing and snuffing. Inhaling tobacco smoke from cigars, cigarettes, bidis, pipes, hukka is called smoking. Tobacco in powder form is chewed with pan. When powdered tobacco is taken through nose, it is called snuffing.
When smoke is inhaled, the chemicals get absorbed by the tissues and cause the following harmful effects
(i) Benzopyrene and polycyclic hydrocarbons present in tobacco smoke is carcinogenic causing lung cancer.
(ii) Causes inflammation of throat and bronchi leading to conditions like bronchitis and pulmonary tuberculosis.
(iii) Inflammation of lung alveoli, decrease surface area for gas exchange and cause emphysema.
(iv) Carbon monoxide of tobacco smoke binds to haemoglobin of RBC and decreases its oxygen carrying capacity causing hypoxia in body tissues.
(v) Increased blood pressure caused by smoking leads to increased risk of heart disease.
(vi) Causes increased gastric secretion which leads to gastric and duodenal ulcers.
(vii) Tobacco chewing causes oral cancer (mouth cancer).
Knowing the dangers of smoking and chewing tobacco adolescents and the old people need to avoid these habits. Proper counselling and medical assistance can help an addict to give up the habit of smoking.
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