The first year of a tobacco use habit holds risks for immediate health problems and the likelihood of an early death. Many people begin smoking or return to smoking with the aim of quitting before too much damage is done. Their plans may be diverted by tobacco addiction or by the augmentation of a disease, such as asthma, due to cigarette smoking. Even short-term daily exposure to tobacco smoke harms the body and can set the cancer growth process in motion.
The Nemours Foundation reports that a dependence on the nicotine in cigarettes can form within days of first smoking. Everybody's nicotine threshold is different and impossible to calculate. Once hooked on cigarette smoking, however, quitting may be difficult or unattainable. Since 9 out of 10 smokers never quit, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and since more than half of smokers die from tobacco use health problems, smoking for even one year can be an early-death sentence.
Effects on Breathing
Cigarette smoking immediately changes breathing patterns. Smoking once or more frequently every day can make these patterns chronic over the course of a year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, report that shortness of breath, reduced lung development and lung function decline can all happen from short-term smoking as early as adolescence. Among adult smokers, damage to the lungs and airways can produce coughing, phlegm, wheezing and shortness of breath. These health problems can have serious effects on any existing respiratory conditions. The presence of carbon monoxide in smoke also upsets the normal blood oxygen balance, affecting smokers' tolerance for exercise and their overall physical fitness.
Effects on the Heart
Smoking a single cigarette immediately speeds up the heart rate. Even in young and short-term tobacco users, cigarette smoking elevates blood cholesterol levels, causing stress and damage to the heart and blood vessels. High blood pressure, reduced exercise tolerance and a greater risk for heart disease are likely outcomes, according to the American Heart Association. In combination with lung function decline, heart health problems affect athletic endurance and performance, the CDC notes.
Cancer may not develop within a year of tobacco use, but the stage can be set for carcinogenesis within any length of exposure to smoke. Cigarettes contain over 60 known carcinogens, the National Institutes of Health report. In addition, smoking affects the immune system so that the body is less able to fight cancerous cell growth. Besides lung cancer, which kills over 100,000 smokers every year, the CDC relates that smoking can cause cancer in the mouth, throat, esophagus, kidney and uterus.
Is This an Emergency?
- Nemours Foundation: Kids and Smoking
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Effects of Nicotine
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Surgeon General’s 2004 Report Summary
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Youth and Tobacco
- National Institutes of Health: Tobacco Carcinogenesis
- American Cancer Society: Guide to Quitting