Tag Archives: cigarette chemicals

Smoking Bad for You Inside and Out

The cosmetics sector undoubtedly cashes in on our desire to look good.

We spend large amounts of money on creams and different products to enhance or maintain our appearance.

However we often fail to remember how much what we consume affects us.

Cigarettes, which are universally acknowledged to take a toll on our lungs, are an item that can hinder our appearance as well. Whether we are simply social smokers or chain smokers, we may be doing damage to more than our lungs.

Recent research carried out by dermatologists has shown that people addicted to smoking cigarettes have around five times as many wrinkles as those who do not indulge in the habit.

Experts, noting that some studies have even proven that cigarettes yield a stronger effect than sunrays, say: “If you don’t want to experience early aging, quit smoking!”

Photo of Girl SmokingDull, wrinkled, dirty-gray skin, recognized by many as being “smokers skin,” is a phenomenon experienced by 79 percent of smokers, says Dr. Bayram Börekçi, a skin and venereal diseases expert.

Börekçi explains; “Some of the symptoms we see on smokers’ faces include permanent lines and wrinkles, as well as a collapsed facial expression resulting from the protruding bones underneath the skin.

We also see thinning skin, a light-gray appearance, as well as a light orange/purple/red coloring. The “cigarette addict’s face” is the same face seen on women over the age of 70. It is worth noting that people addicted to cigarettes start getting wrinkles very early. The amount of wrinkling is parallel to the number of cigarettes smoked over the course of a year.

Some of the factors which lead to the formation of wrinkles on the skin as a result of cigarette smoking are the widening veins due to the stimulation of the nervous system by nicotine, the reduction of oxygen in soft tissues, the increase in clotting and the reduction of collagen.”

Börekçi, mentioning the toxic, mechanical and genetic effects of smoking, notes that the reduction of moisture in smokers’ skin is connected with the toxic effect of cigarettes. The doctor also notes that the wrinkling seen around the lips of some smokers is a result of the “mechanic” effects of cigarette smoking, the muscles used when actually inhaling smoke.

He notes: “Many people believe that there are also genetic factors at play here, as not all cigarette smokers have a cigarette addict’s face. The elasticity layer in the parts of bodies which are not regularly exposed to the sun in cigarette smokers are, when compared to the same areas of the body in non-smokers, much thicker and more fragmented. The chronic reduction of oxygen to the skin also reduces the synthesis of collagen, making visible wrinkles emerge.”

He went on: “Cigarettes can cause a variety of anti-estrogen effects, such as infertility, early menopause and menstrual irregularities. The physiological effects and importance of estrogen to the skin can be seen clearly in the post-menopausal period. In women who are addicted to cigarettes, the hypo-estrogen situation that is brought about shows itself in dry skin and wrinkles.

Cigarettes reduce the levels of vitamin A in the body, which means that the cells have a greatly reduced level of protection against their number-one enemy, free radicals. This too makes it easier for wrinkles to appear. In people who already have white or grey hair, there is a yellowish color that appears in the hair because of the tar in cigarettes.

The same sort of yellowish-brown color appears on the fingers and fingernails of people who smoke. This is called a “nicotine stain.” The insides of smokers’ mouths are darker than other people’s mouths. In fact, sometimes the insides of the cheeks develop a tough, irregular whitish film. The fact that veins become narrower as a result of smoking means that it is harder for wounds to heal.

It has been shown that even smoking just one cigarette can have the effect of narrowing veins for up to 90 minutes. There are more than 4,000 chemical elements found in cigarette smoke, although it is mostly nicotine, which is responsible for the decrease in the flow of blood.”

So bearing all this mind, you might want to ask yourself: Is enjoying a cigarette really worth all this potential physiological damage you could be dealing yourself?

How Marlboro Became Number One

How did Marlboro cigarettes, the best-selling brand in the world, ever get so popular in the first place?

Was it really the Marlboro Man?

Did people just like the taste? What? According to a new study in this month’s American Journal of Public Health the secret may well have been “freebase nicotine.” Really.

For a long time, many cigarette companies used ammonia during the manufacturing process to inflate the volume of tobacco, accentuate certain flavors, or even get rid of a few carcinogens. But in the early 1960s, according to Terrell Stevenson and Robert Proctor, Philip Morris started using ammonia to freebase the nicotine in cigarette smoke, creating a form of “crack nicotine” that delivered a speedier, sharper kick, and essentially allowed Philip Morris to keep rolling out addictive cigarettes while lowering tar and nicotine levels to allay public fears.

Marlboro Cig PackAs it happens, Philip Morris first perfected its ammonia trick with Marlboros, which quickly rose from being a bit player to becoming the most dominant cigarette brand on the market, which forced all the other manufacturers to scramble to figure out Philip Morris’s secret. (They did, eventually.)

Over the last decade, as the industry has come under fire for manipulating nicotine levels to keep customers hooked, Philip Morris has managed to defend itself by noting that ammonia has all sorts of more innocuous uses and couldn’t possibly be playing a role here. I guess we’ll see if this new paper kicks the last legs out from under that defense.

Source: Bradford Plumer, The New Republic

Tobacco Companies Alter Cigarettes to Keep You Smoking

A doctor from the American Cancer Society reports on how large tobacco companies keep you smoking.

By upping nicotine in cigarettes each year and intensifying the concentration smokers stay addicted.

Even though smoking is responsible for one in five deaths in the US, the Tobacco industry has no qualms about using nicotine addiction and dependency to line their pockets.

Future of Nicotine Levels in Cigarettes Uncertain

Washington – The Food and Drug Administration may soon have the ability to regulate sales, distribution and advertising of tobacco products, but it would not be allowed to require removal of nicotine from cigarettes.

Nicotine, the most addictive ingredient in a cigarette, increases the level of the dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain.

Dopamine controls many important responses in the brain, such as behavior.

Nicotine spreads in the brain within a few minutes of the first inhalation, creating feelings of reward, which then cause the smoker to continue smoking.

“People may smoke for non-nicotine reasons, but it is the nicotine that is the primary addictive component of cigarettes,” said Dr. Allison Chausmer from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

American Lung Association Graph of Chemicals in CigarettesAlthough the FDA would not be able to get rid of nicotine altogether under the bill being considered by Congress, it would have the power to reduce nicotine levels in tobacco products.

The possible benefits for smokers, just like the bill, remain debatable.

A study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse found that tapered reduction of nicotine in cigarettes over a four-week span led one-fourth of smokers who were not trying to quit to spontaneously stop smoking after returning to their regular cigarettes.

“If a cigarette has nicotine levels that are below the level that people find rewarding, it may result in a reduced incidence of smoking initiation and/or increased incidence of quitting,” Chausmer said.

Chausmer also said that if the FDA lowers the nicotine content of cigarettes, “Fewer people will become addicted, and those who are addicted may find it easier to quit.”

However, smokers’ behavior varies, and some, if faced with lower nicotine levels in cigarettes, might smoke more to achieve the same nicotine satisfaction. Chausmer noted that smoking more cigarettes would mean spending more money and taking more time away from work or friends because of today’s smoke-free workplaces and restaurants.

The bill that would give the FDA regulatory power was approved by a House committee last week and will move to the House floor in the coming months.

Source: Farah Khan, Medill Reports, Northwestern University

Smoking and SIDS: The Connection Explained

Like we need one more reason not to smoke, especially during pregnancy.

For the men in the house who create second-hand smoke read about this study.

New science is telling us that the increased risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) among people exposed to nicotine is very real. And very explainable.

Sleep Review magazine is reporting a fascinating study that just came out, detailing why an infant’s ability to respond to oxygen deprivation after birth is dramatically compromised by exposure to nicotine in the womb–even when that exposure is light to moderate.

Picture a baby lying face down in bed. A normal, healthy baby would sense it’s being deprived of vital oxygen, and thus move its head. This is similar to the “flight or flight” response we get when we’re in a dire situation and have to move fast to survive (our body moves without us really thinking about it).

But when a baby has been exposed to the chemical nicotine in the womb, apparently this instinctual arousal mechanism doesn’t work so well. So the baby isn’t quick enough to respond and save his life.SIDS is rare, but it’s one of the most common causes of death in babies between 1 and 12 months of age. Most babies who die of SIDS are between the ages of 2 and 4 months. It can be devastating for a family–what seems like a totally healthy baby suddenly dies during sleep.

We don’t know what causes SIDS, but clearly there are risk factors for it, and smoking is one of them (no, not the baby smoking, but the mother and anyone else in the vicinity). Current studies are looking at possibly a problem in the brain that controls breathing during the first few months of life. But this new study plainly shows how nicotine can kill a much-needed survival mechanism in the early stages of life.

Baby in a CribWhen a baby is born, it’s exposed to low oxygen, which signals the adrenal glands to release chemicals called catecholamines. These catecholamines contain the famous fight or flight hormone adrenaline that tell the baby’s lungs to reabsorb fluid, and to take its first breath. The heart also begins to beat more efficiently. This response mechanism remains in place for a few months after birth (so it’s the adrenal glands that act as the baby’s oxygen sensor).

But under the influence of nicotine, it appears this mechanism becomes dysfunctional. Granted, a baby would normally lose this mechanism in time as the central nervous systems takes over the controls of this critical response, but unfortunately when a baby loses this ability too early in the game of life, the door to SIDS opens.

Yet another reason to blow out the smoke. I know it’s no easy task. But neither is grieving for a lost child.

Source: Dr. Michael J. Breus

This article is cross-posted at Dr. Breus’s Blog, The Insomnia Blog.

The “Sunny Side” of Tobacco

Washington, DC, February 22, 2008

In 2008, the truth® youth smoking prevention campaign unleashes music, dancing and cartoons to reveal the “sunny side” of tobacco use and the tobacco industry.

The American Legacy Foundation®’s edgy truth® campaign is designed to educate teens about tobacco by exposing Big Tobacco’s marketing practices, as well as highlighting the toll of tobacco use in relevant and innovative ways.

Facts About the Tobacco Industry

The industry has been found by a Federal judge to have manipulated the amount of nicotine delivered by its cigarettes to create and sustain addiction.1 At the same time, research indicates that nicotine is highly addictive.

Research has shown that the tobacco industry “youth prevention” ads aimed at parents actually increased the likelihood that teens will smoke in the future

Finally, according to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2005 the industry spent nearly 36 million dollars each day marketing its products in the U.S. alone.

The latest truth® campaign aims to shine a light on some of these activities and satirically point out some of the “hidden positives” associated with tobacco.

The “Sunny Side of truth®” television ads unfold in a way reminiscent of previous truth® ads – with young people on the streets doing real truth® stunts like gathering in front of tobacco industry headquarters buildings. But then the spots continue in a saccharin sweet, yet super-sarcastic fashion.

When the young people consider a tobacco fact and the “sunny side” of Big Tobacco, a live singin’-and-dancin’ musical number breaks out. Despite the musical diversion, the ads remain gritty, real, and true to the campaign, delivering a strong anti-tobacco message or illuminating facts about tobacco.

In reality, there is no sunny side to the issue of tobacco use in America; more than 400,000 Americans die each year from tobacco-related diseases, specifically 45,000 African-Americans have lost their lives to tobacco use. The tobacco industry continues to use questionable practices in promoting and marketing its products despite these recent morbidity statistics.

Case Against Major Tobacco Companies

On August 17th, 2006, in the Department of Justice’s racketeering case against the major tobacco companies, a federal court found that the tobacco industry was guilty of more than 50 years of racketeering and fraud in promoting its deadly products.

More recently, in the spring of 2007, one company – R.J. Reynolds – introduced a new product called Camel No. 9, which featured slick black and fuchsia packaging and was heavily advertised in many publications that reach millions of young women. Despite the female-friendly packaging and placement in leading women’s fashion magazines, the tobacco industry maintained that Camel No. 9s were not designed for young women. In November 2007, R.J. Reynolds announced that in 2008, it would not spend money on print advertising, including the Camel No. 9 campaign. However, the product continues to be sold on store shelves and R.J. Reynolds will continue to devote resources to promoting the brand through “bar nights” and other activities.

Sunny side cigarettes

The “Sunny Side of truth®” campaign will roll out the week of January 22, 2008 and run through the end of October 2008. In addition to national television and online advertising, a grant from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will extend the campaign to smaller, rural markets that have high smoking rates and limited exposure to truth® ads. The CDC recently renewed a three-year $3.6 million matching grant that will allow for higher penetration of truth® ads in smaller television markets.

“With the Foundation continuing to face a decline in funding, our strategy is always to try and extend our resources as best we can while staying relevant with teens,” said Cheryl G. Healton, Dr. P.H., president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation®. “Whether it’s by watching American Idol and High School Musical, or by tuning in to music on their I-Pods, we know this generation of teens is enthralled with singing and dancing. The ‘Sunny Side’ ads and their music, dancing, and animation are a terrific new approach for truth® to continue to engage teens and share important tobacco facts with them. ” Healton added that the campaign’s robust online presence – both through thetruth.com Web site and various truth® homepages on social networking sites, will also capitalize on music and animation to capture teens’ attention.

The “Sunny Side” television spots all feature music, dancing and lyrics written by established Broadway professionals and performed by actors joined by cartoon characters such as unicorns, Cupids, storks and others. The Sunny Side campaign marks the first time truth® has used animation in its advertising.

Anti-Tobacco TV Spots

The first two television spots, Magical Amount and Typo, roll out in January and February 2008 respectively.

In Magical Amount, a teen is shown setting bear traps in a park in New York City, with a pack of cigarettes as bait. The bear traps serve as an analogy for the addiction faced by potential smokers. A teen begins to speak into a bullhorn, informing the passersby that “In 2006, a federal judge found that, to keep smokers addicted, Big Tobacco manipulated nicotine levels. But too much nicotine can make you sick.” The teens are interrupted by a unicorn who explains “That’s why they need the magical amount.” The unicorn is joined by other fantastical creatures that begin to sing about how the tobacco companies have found the “magical amount” to keep smokers addicted. The ad ends with the teen and the magical characters looking at each other in disbelief. The words “The Sunny Side of truth®!” appear on screen before it fades to black.

Typo opens on some teens in front of a tobacco company headquarters unrolling an enormous document with the heading “Tobacco Related Deaths” printed on it. One teen says “Wait until we show tobacco executives the five million people around the world who died from their products last year,” when the teen with him suggests that “Maybe we’re being too negative. Look on the bright side. Like, maybe it’s a typo or something.” Animated typewriters, documents, and liquid paper then fill the screen and accompany the teens as they sing about how statistics on the millions of deaths from tobacco could have just been a typo. Again, the ad ends with the teens and the characters looking at each other in disbelief. The words “The Sunny Side of truth®!” then appear on screen before fading to black.

Talent and Production

David Yazbek, a Tony-nominated lyricist and composer, wrote the music featured in the campaign. Yazbek is best known for his career as a Broadway composer and lyricist. His two shows, The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, are both hits that have played all over the world (more than 20 countries and counting). The shows received 21 Tony Award nominations combined and Yazbek was twice nominated for Best Score. His score for The Full Monty won him the Drama Desk award for Best Music.

Tom Kuntz directed the truth® television ads. His career spans both advertising and music television, having received awards for his work for well-known companies like Starbucks, Coca-Cola, and Virgin Mobile. His music video for The Avalanches was awarded Video of the Year at the CADs, the United Kingdom’s premiere video award show, while one of his videos for the band Electric Six was named the 4th best video of all-time by Q Magazine

Web and Social Networking

The television spots will be supported by a new Web site design and social networking profiles. The truth.com Web site will feature applications that allow teens to interact with each other and share information related to tobacco and truth®. For the first time, the site will also feature sound effects – from guitar riffs and guitar chords, to game-related “dings, beeps and bongs.”

Similar applications will be used on MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Hi-5 and Xanga. Features will include:

  • Log Blog – a messaging system enabling teens to send each other virtual messages that appear to be written in poop. This tactic is used to draw attention to the fact that the ammonia found in feces is also a key ingredient in cigarettes.
  • Games like “Key-tar Slayer” – a game that encourages users to play/jam out to the music from the truth® television ads with nothing but their keyboards. A leader board keeps track of those who excel at the game. Previously released truth® games that were popular with teens will also be available on the site.
  • “The Useful Cigarette” – a feature where visitors can learn how the ingredients found in cigarettes and cigarette smoke can also be found in such common household products as toilet bowl cleaner and nail polish remover, along with rocket fuel.
  • Polls – tongue-in-cheek interactive polls related to facts about tobacco.
  • Downloads – Posters, computer desktops kits, desktop wallpaper and buddy icons.
  • Embedded video of Sunny Side ads.

Animation Advertisements

The “Sunny Side of truth®” campaign marks the first time truth® has incorporated animation into its television advertisements. Curious Pictures in New York worked with truth® to create the unique campaign. Curious Pictures is a diversified design and entertainment company producing live-action, special effects, graphics, comedy and animation of all types. Some recent TV shows include Sheep in the Big City and Codename: Kids Next Door, for Cartoon Network, Little Einsteins on Disney, and Hey Joel for VH 1.

Anti-Smoking in the Cinema

“Sunny Side of truth®” will be seen in 2,065 Screenvision theaters across the country. All told, the campaign will be run on nearly 10,000 screens in all 50 states. Screenvision encompasses some the nation’s largest theater chains, including AMC, Hollywood Theaters and Cinema Productions. The campaign will run through the month of April and then again in September.

The “Sunny Side of truth®” campaign was created by the American Legacy Foundation and its partners, Arnold Worldwide of Boston and Crispin Porter + Bogusky of Miami.

Background on the truth® Campaign

truth®, launched in February 2000, is the largest national youth smoking prevention campaign and the only national campaign not directed by the tobacco industry. The campaign exposes the tactics of the tobacco industry, the truth about addiction, and the health effects and social consequences of smoking. truth®, allows teens to make informed choices about tobacco use by giving them the facts about the industry and its products. The campaign was created by the American Legacy Foundation, which was founded as a result of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry, 46 states and five U.S. territories. Payments to the American Legacy Foundation are made on behalf of the settling states.

In February 2005 the American Legacy Foundation released the results of an evaluation of the national truth® campaign that was published in the American Journal of Public Health. The study found that 22 percent of the overall decline in youth smoking during the first two years of the campaign (2000-2002) is directly attributable to truth®. This equates to 300,000 fewer youth smokers in 2002 as a result of the campaign.

The American Legacy Foundation, which provides strategic direction and funding for the truth® campaign, received in 2003 what is likely its final payment to the National Public Education Fund established by the Master Settlement Agreement. Despite its success, the truth® campaign now faces an unprecedented funding challenge.

Source: Black PR Wire Release

Seven Reasons to Stop Smoking

Do you smoke?

Thinking of quitting?

Discovery Health lists seven reasons why you should quit smoking right now.

Don’t wait another minute, read this list now, and really think about these seven reasons.

If not just for yourself, think of how you are effecting your loved ones.

They might just persuade you ditch the smokes before it’s too late…

seven.jpg1. You smell pretty bad
Bad breath and body odor, sallow skin, smelly clothes, yellow teeth – what’s not to love? Maybe it is time stub it out.

2. Food doesn’t taste as good
Smoking can permanently harm your sense of smell, which in turns affects your tasting experience. This can be reversible, but you do run the risk of permanent damage to this sensory experience.

3. More time in hospital
The carcinogens released when you light up gives you a better chance to develop cancer of the mouth, lung and throat, and your basic flu easily turns into bronchitis or pneumonia. You are more likely to spend some quality time with healthcare professionals than a non-smoker.

4. Your body ages faster
Want to look nine years older than you actually are? Then have a cigarette, don’t exercise too much and just for good measure add a bit of weight to your frame. The good news is that it is reversible. If you stop smoking, do some mild exercise and lose the weight, you can look and also feel younger than your actual age.

5. Smoking harms your children
Smoking during pregnancy can lower your child’s IQ and lead to low birth weight, still births, miscarriages, birth defects such as cleft lip and sudden infant death syndrome (cot death). Cigarette smoke contains an estimated 4000 chemicals, with nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide thought to be the most dangerous to the fetus.

6. You have to exercise harder
Your lungs aren’t operating at full volume due to the tar and increased levels of carbon monoxide in your lungs. This poisonous gas is quickly absorbed into the blood, reducing its capacity to carry oxygen. As a result, the smoker has to exert more physical effort to attain a given task than does a non-smoker. The heart in particular must work harder, particularly during rigorous exercise. Increased levels of carbon monoxide in the blood can impair vision, perception of time, and co-ordination.

7. You can pass risks onto your kids
Like father like son… Most children of smokers will take up the habit as well or suffer the consequences of second-hand smoke.

NIH to Fund New Research Study Regarding Exposure to Cigarette Smoke

Smoking Research Studies Exposure to Cigarette Smoke

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently received a $2.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for a new study focusing on the chemical changes that occur when the body is exposed to cigarette smoke.

SmokePrevious research has shown that chemical changes in the body can occur after exposure to cigarette smoke and that smoking and exposure to cigarette smoke is the environmental exposure responsible for causing more deaths than any other toxins.

The chemical elements found in cigarette smoke can cause certain types of cancer and have been associated with cardiovascular, pulmonary and pancreatic diseases.

Smokers, non-smokers and even individuals who are in regular contact with secondhand smoke will be screened for the presence of distinctive lipid and DNA biological indicators or chemicals and through additional discovery potential protein indicators in their blood, urine and breath.

These indicators, also known as biomarkers or biochemicals, will be utilized to determine the susceptibility of individuals to tobacco-related lung and cardiovascular problems after exposure to cigarette smoke. The results will hopefully provide reliable data for use in subsequent studies.

“Only one in ten smokers get lung cancer, but the five-year survival rate after diagnosis is only 15 percent,” says Trevor M. Penning, PhD, Director of The Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET). “The question is, how can we intervene earlier to identify people most at risk. We aim to look at the interaction of genetic susceptibility to lung cancer and biomarkers of exposure to cigarette smoke. At the end of the day, if we study genetics and exposure together, we’ll hopefully have a very strong statement to say who is most at risk.”

Source: Brenda Fulmer, Claris Law
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The Secret Smoker

He would, he says, never cheat on his wife.

But each time he smokes a Camel Light, it feels like an infidelity.

He promised to quit before they married.

He stubbed out his cigarette, washed his face with scented soap and for two months he abstained.

He said his wedding vows, toasted her with champagne and honeymooned at a resort, all without a cigarette.

Back in Charlotte, as he faced work again, he felt an irresistible urge to smoke.

Cigarette SmokerHe opened his desk drawer and there it was, a pack of Camel Lights he had hidden. He reached in. With more desire than regret, he got up and returned to his old haunt, an alcove behind his office where he knew he would find the other smokers standing around a terra cotta flowerpot.

The first couple of puffs tasted bitter the way he remembers his first cigarette in junior high.

Then a familiar heady adrenaline rush kicked in, and he was hooked all over again.

The Closet Smoker

He is The Closet Smoker, and that pack of Camel Lights in his desk is his dirty little secret.

You may know someone like him: an alcoholic perhaps, or a gambler or drug abuser. The pleasure they get from their addictions makes them do things they would not ordinarily do: indulge in risky behavior and lie about it.

The Closet Smoker knows better. In so many other ways he takes care of himself and the people around him. He lifts weights, takes a multivitamin and avoids fast food. He enjoys a good bottle of wine and an occasional sushi dinner out, but he’s not extravagant. If his car needs an oil change or tire rotation, he does it himself.

He’s not yet 40, a professional in Charlotte. His boss says she’s impressed by his savvy and creativity, and by the little things he does to help around the office, such as cleaning up the kitchen.

Most evenings, he cooks dinner for his wife. He phones his mother every day, or sends an instant message. Weekends, he might take his daughter golfing or to Carowinds. On Sundays, you’ll find him in church. His best friends know his secret. Everybody at work knows. But not the people who mean the most to him, his wife, his mother and his daughter.

He’s embarrassed to admit he lies to them. He says he wouldn’t lie for any other reason. He feels guilty, ashamed that he’s capable of deceiving the three most important people in his life for a cigarette. He worries what will happen if they find out.

They’re right, and he knows it. He shouldn’t smoke. It’s bad for him. He researched smoking for a science project in eighth grade and discovered that a few drops of nicotine in liquid form can kill you.

Years of smoking, he knows, might kill him, too.

The Nature of Cigarette Addiction

The Closet Smoker is sensible about most things. Yet his compulsion to smoke overpowers his common sense. That’s the nature of addiction.

It’s part of being human. Our brains are wired to reinforce behaviors we need to survive. Eating, drinking, sex. These behaviors stimulate pleasure circuits in the brain. Nicotine over-stimulates the circuits. It floods the brain with a neurotransmitter called dopamine that makes us feel good. Cocaine and heroin act in similar ways.

One reason nicotine and these other drugs are so addictive is they work on the same brain circuitry we use for survival.

Our brains become hijacked. We have to have more.

Scientists have turned to brain imaging to learn about addiction. They discovered that the decision-making part of an addict’s brain, the region that controls judgment, is no longer as effective. That could help explain why we become hooked on things when we know we shouldn’t.

  • Nicotine
  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol
  • Steroids
  • Gambling
  • Shoplifting
  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Work
  • Sex

We’re all capable of addictive behavior.

Anything to look cool

The Closet Smoker’s initiation came in middle school. His older brother smoked, and The Closet Smoker occasionally sneaked one.

He wanted to like cigarettes. He wanted to look grown-up like his brother.

But what he remembers most from those early attempts is a burning sensation on the tip of his tongue and in his chest, followed by a fit of coughing.

He bought his first pack freshman year in high school. He was 15. State law then as now said no one under 18 could buy cigarettes, and for a while he bummed off older friends. Then he learned about a convenience store on the way to school where the clerk didn’t check IDs.

He asked for Marlboros. Everybody he knew smoked Marlboro’s, the cowboy’s brand, America’s favorite cigarette. He wanted to be like everybody. He paid for that first pack with money he earned bagging groceries at the Winn-Dixie.

He tucked the little red and white box in his backpack and headed off to school, a member of a new fraternity.

He ignored the taste. It was more important to him to be like everybody than to actually enjoy smoking. And it didn’t take too many cigarettes before the taste grew on him like the taste of another adult pleasure he had learned to like, black coffee.

He says most students smoked. The fortunes of their town, like so many towns in North Carolina, were built on tobacco. It was still the state’s biggest cash crop when he was in school, and even now brings in $400 million a year.

Of course, teenagers smoked.

Many of their parents did, too. The Closet Smoker’s dad smoked three packs a day for 30 years before giving it up.

High school students could smoke between classes, at recess and at lunch with a parent’s permission. The Closet Smoker’s parents didn’t approve, but he says he got so he could get in a smoke in 45 seconds and no one ever caught him.

He remembers the night of a basketball game, hanging out in the parking lot with friends, most of them sneaking beer, then one person asked if anyone had a cigarette and another person wanted one, too, and then another. He was the only one with a pack, and he passed it around.

That night, he was The Man.

Loved Ones Worry

His first wife, he says, hated his smoking. Before they married, he was up to a pack and a half a day. Thirty cigarettes every day.

He says she complained about the smell, and the taste when they kissed, and the stale odor of his clothes, and the butts in the flowerpot on the deck.

Most of all, he says, she hated what smoking might do to him: the heart disease and bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, lung cancer and other cancers.

Everyone knows smoking kills. Half of all Americans who smoke will die because of it, about 400,000 people every year, twice as many people as die from alcohol, drugs, fires, car accidents, homicide, suicide and AIDS combined.

Kids in preschool know smoking kills. Yet more than 46 million people in our country smoke. The Closet Smoker, like many addicts, assumes it won’t happen to him.

He Tried To Quit

He really did, he says, and once he almost succeeded.

He went without a cigarette for several months after college and he felt much better. He had more stamina. He no longer had that nagging smoker’s cough.

Then he took a job at a company where most employees smoked. They stopped working every day at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for 15 minutes of smoking and socializing.

Within two weeks, he was in there with them.

He tried to hide his habit after his daughter was born, but when she was 4 she caught him.

He had sneaked out to the patio like a teenager. She went looking for him. She opened the door and there stood her father, a cigarette dangling between his lips.

Daddy, that’s nasty!

He felt ashamed. He snuffed out the butt between his fingers and flushed it down the toilet. But he didn’t quit. From that day on, he just made sure he never again smoked around her.

He doesn’t want his daughter to smoke.

His parents didn’t want him to.

His dad once offered him $1,000 if he would quit.

The Closet Smokers Deception

The Closet Smoker thinks he’s fooling his new wife.

He smokes his last cigarette at work around 4:30 most afternoons, then washes away the smell from his face with scented soap. He drives home, car windows open, chewing gum or sucking mints. He chews gum on weekends just so she won’t wonder why he’s always chewing gum when he gets home from work.

He doesn’t smoke in his car. He doesn’t smoke on Saturdays or Sundays. He sometimes smokes when he’s out to lunch, but mostly he confines his smoking to the alcove behind his office.

He and two co-workers knock on each other’s doors on their way out, four or five times a day, more on bad days. The Closet Smoker says he enjoys the socializing as much as the smoking. If he didn’t smoke, how could he justify taking so many breaks?

They stand in the alcove in 104-degree heat. They’re out there in freezing rain. They can’t be picky. Finding a place to smoke is not easy any more.

You certainly can’t smoke at school. In your office? Few businesses allow it. Even outdoors in many places, you’re a pariah; no one wants to breathe your secondhand smoke.

As bare and ugly as the alcove is, The Closet Smoker looks forward to being there every Monday morning.

What Happens Inside

Every Monday morning, after two days without nicotine, his first cigarette gives him a kick more powerful than any he’ll get all week.He balances the Camel Light between his lips, then cuffs his hands around his lighter. A flame shoots up. The tip of the cigarette burns. He inhales, drawing smoke deep inside. Particles of tar, the same stuff used to pave highways, carry the nicotine through his windpipe, then down his left and right bronchi and into his lungs.

He holds onto the smoke for a few seconds before exhaling.

The nicotine flows through small tubes in his lungs called bronchioles and into millions of tiny air sacs that puff up every time he inhales. From there, it enters his bloodstream.

It takes about eight seconds to reach his brain.

Before he can take another puff, he feels the effects of the first. The gratification is immediate and that’s one reason nicotine is so addictive.

He feels a lift of energy. His heart beats faster, his blood pressure rises. He is focused, more attentive. He feels ready to tackle work again.

What he doesn’t feel are the poisons circulating through his body:

Cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol and acetylene, ammonia, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide, more than 4,000 chemicals in each cigarette, the same chemicals used to kill rats, make gasoline and nail polish, and embalm dead bodies.

The nicotine is what hooked him; it’s the chemicals in cigarettes that may kill him.

They’re the reason this summer he couldn’t swim underwater from one end of his apartment pool and back again without coming up for air.

He says his wife blamed his lack of stamina on years of smoking, not knowing he is still at it.

A Partial Confession

Since they married, he says she has confronted him a few times about the smell of cigarettes.

His heart beat faster, his blood pressure rose, but not in a pleasant way. He says he confessed. Sort of. He says he told her each time that, yes, he smoked that day. He didn’t tell her he smokes every day at work.

He says she hates the smell and the taste and, most of all, she hates what cigarettes might do to him. How could he promise to be with her forever, when he shortens forever by several minutes or more with every cigarette?

He says he had every intention of quitting. He’s had every intention of quitting every time he’s tried. Most smokers want to quit, but it usually takes several tries. The Closet Smoker says he has tried 15 to 20 times.

What the Secret Smokers Tells Himself

Maybe he can’t quit. So he gives himself permission, the way addicts do: “I firmly believe that a lot of lung cancer that’s smoking related is because people sit inside and continuously breathe in the smoke. I don’t smoke inside.”

He rationalizes, the way addicts do, that his smoking doesn’t affect his family because he doesn’t smoke in front of them.

But The Closet Smoker is a smart guy and when he hears what he’s just said, he knows it doesn’t make sense. “Now that I’ve said it out loud, I guess it’s a little short-sighted of me because I don’t see it as directly affecting them. Long-sighted, my health and my early demise will affect them.”

Most of all, he says, he hates deceiving the people he loves.

Smoking Kills, Yet We Light Up

One in 20 middle school students in North Carolina smokes cigarettes, according to the American Lung Association. By high school, one in five students in the state smokes, and the percentage grows slightly among adults. They smoke despite evidence that smoking is responsible for nearly one in five deaths in the United States. Consider these statistics from the CDC:

  1. Smoking causes 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in women, and nearly 80 percent in men, and many other types of cancer.
  2. If you smoke, you’re two to four times as likely to develop coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
  3. Smoking doubles a person’s risk for stroke.

    Smokers in the Closet

    More than 46 million people in the United States smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    No one knows how many are closet smokers. After news reports that ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, a former smoker, had lung cancer, New York magazine polled 100 smokers; one-third said they hid their habit from parents, bosses, children or spouses.

    Want to Quit Smoking?

    Call toll-free in North and South Carolina, 1-800-Quit-Now.

    American Lung Association’s “Quit Smoking Cessation Plan”

    Tobacco prevention in North Carolina

    Teens can get help at NCNot.com


    How We Reported the Story

    Elizabeth Leland interviewed Professor Steven Childers of Wake Forest University School of Medicine, who studies the effect of drug addiction on the brain, and Dr. Cindy Miner, a deputy director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Leland also researched addiction and nicotine through publications such as “Psychology Today” and on Web sites of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Stanford University, Harvard University and others. She read about the history and economics of tobacco, and got data from the N.C. Department of Agriculture and the American Cancer Society. She interviewed The Closet Smoker and his boss. He agreed to be the subject of a story on condition that she not reveal his identity.

    Source: Elizabeth Leland, Charlotte Observer

    What Does Smoking Cigarettes Have to Do With Radioactive Radon Gas?

    Tobacco research has discovered thousands of risks from the tar and chemicals in cigarettes.

    Many people are not aware of just how many dangers there are from smoking tobacco, and this is one of those facts that is not widely known.

    For over 40 years, tobacco researchers and tobacco corporations have known that cigarettes contain radionuclides.

    Radioactive Radon Gas in CigarettesThe contamination is sourced in naturally occurring radioactive radon gas which is absorbed and trapped in apatite rock.

    Apatite, or phosphate rock, is mined for the purpose of formulating the phosphate portion of most chemical fertilizers.

    Polonium releases ionizing alpha radiation which is 20 times more harmful than either beta or gamma radiation when exposed to internal organs.