The main components of tobacco that affect the respiratory system are Carbon monoxide, tar and nicotine. Carbon monoxide harms the red blood cells. The gas, when inhaled, passes through the lungs and alveoli and upon reaching the blood stream, it binds with hemoglobin. This reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood leading to circulatory problems, strokes and cardiovascular disease. Tar causes inflammation of mucous membranes of the bronchi, bronchioles and the trachea. Consequently, this causes damage to lungs and reduces their diameter thus reducing the functionality of the respiratory track. Nicotine enters the lungs fast during smoking, is absorbed into the bloodstream where it travels into the brain in seconds. It is responsible for tobacco addiction (Tool, 2004).
Affect of Tobacco on the Respiratory System
Carbon monoxide lowers the body’s oxygen carrying capacity, causing the blood to deliver less oxygen to almost all the body organs and organ systems. For the circulatory system, when cigarette smoke reaches the lungs, it forces the heart to work harder; the pulse quickens and the heart beats 10 to 25 times extra per minute. Due to the irritating effect of nicotine and other contents in the smoke, the heart is more likely to beat irregularly. Blood pressure increases by 10 to 15 percent, thereby adding stress to one’s heart and blood vessels. This could contribute to cardiac arrhythmia and other serious coronary conditions, for example, heart attack. In the reproductive system, smoking women are three times more likely to be infertile than the nonsmokers, and they may reach menopause earlier. Decreased potency in males may occur due to the negative effects of smoking on blood vessels. It also affects the fertility of male smokers by decreasing the sperm count and motility (Ashelman , 2000).
The respiratory system maintains body balance in two ways: regulation of the blood PH and gas exchange. Gas exchange in the lungs and the alveoli results from an increased concentration of oxygen accompanied by a decrease of carbon dioxide; the process takes place between the alveolar air and blood in the pulmonary capillaries and is done through diffusion. Cellular respiration can be defined as the process in which energy is moved from glucose form into ATP; all cells generally, use ATP in all metabolic reactions. Oxygen is consumed and carbon dioxide given out during the process of cellular respiration. Therefore, cellular respiration and the respiratory system are directly correlated-without the respiration of lungs bringing oxygen into the body and exchange it carbon dioxide at the alveoli, oxygen would not be available for cellular respiration (Thorpe, 2009).
Smokeless tobacco mostly affects mouth and oral health. The health consequence of smokeless tobacco is generally less serious than those associated with cigarette smoking. In the United States, for example, there are 12 million smokeless users compared to 47 million smokers; there are 6000 deaths related to smokeless tobacco use versus the 442000 for smoking users. Smokeless tobacco is said to cause mouth cancer but using it does not have any added risk for heart disease or lung cancer (Wilson & Kolander, 2010 ).