Exposure to a puff of smoke causes immediate damage

Exposure to tobacco smoke, even occasional smoking or secondhand smoke, causes immediate damage to your body that can lead to serious illness or death.

Last Updated: Dec 10, 2010, 17:28 PM IST

Washington: With some 443,000 Americans dying annually from tobacco-related illnesses, a new official report warned today that even a whiff of smoke can seriously
affect the human body.

"Exposure to tobacco smoke, even occasional smoking or secondhand smoke, causes immediate damage to your body that can lead to serious illness or death," says the comprehensive scientific report by US Surgeon General Regina M Benjamin.

"The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale causing damage immediately," Benjamin said, adding that "inhaling even the smallest amount of
tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer."

The 704-page report, the 30th Surgeon General`s report to address tobacco, "validates earlier findings, expands and strengthens the science base and describes in detail the
multiple ways that tobacco smoke damages every organ in the body, resulting in disease and death."

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 70 that cause cancer, the report said.

That means there is no "risk-free level of exposure" to tobacco smoke. Even a whiff of tobacco smoke can adversely impact the body, the report says.

The lining of the lungs becomes inflamed as soon as it is exposed to cigarette smoke, and, over time, the smoke can cause chronic lung diseases such as emphysema and chronic
bronchitis, according to the report.

The report also explains why it is so difficult to quit smoking. According to the research, cigarettes are designed for addiction.

There is no evidence that adding filters to cigarettes has made them safer or that "low-tar" and "light" cigarettes are any less dangerous, according to the report.

In fact, the design and contents of current tobacco products make them more attractive and addictive than ever before. "Today`s cigarettes deliver nicotine more quickly and
efficiently than cigarettes of many years ago," Benjamin said in a statement.

But "this report makes it clear - quitting at any time gives your body a chance to heal the damage caused by smoking," Benjamin said. "It`s never too late to quit, but the sooner you do it, the better."

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said reducing tobacco consumption in the US would remain to be a priority area for the Obama administration.

"Over the last two years we have stepped up efforts to reduce tobacco use, including implementing legislation to regulate tobacco products, investing in local tobacco control efforts and expanding access to insurance coverage for tobacco cessation," Sebelius said. "This will remain a key priority of this Administration," she added.

PTI