by Carolina Endara
MEXICO CITY, May 31 (Xinhua) -- Smoking harms organs throughout human body, not just lungs as such related diseases as emphysema and lung cancer are among the leading causes of death among smokers, medical expert Maria Angelica Ocampo said on Thursday.
The coordinator of the Clinic Against Tobacco and Other Addictive Substances at the General Hospital of Mexico said this in an interview with Xinhua. May 31 marks the World No Tobacco Day designated by the World Health Organization (WHO).
"There isn't a single body organ or system that isn't affected by smoking because it has to do with oxygen, and we can do everything except stopping breathing," said Ocampo.
When you smoke, "your red blood cells stop transporting oxygen because they are transporting carbon monoxide (CO), which adheres more easily to the red blood cells, and you begin to have bad blood circulation towards the whole body, the brain, arms and legs," explained Ocampo.
"That's why we see smokers with purple lips and very red hands. It's the lack of oxygen," she said.
In addition, the carbon monoxide from cigarettes carries anywhere between 4,000 and 7,000 chemical compounds, more than 60 of them carcinogenic.
Regarding this year's theme of World No Tobacco Day "Tobacco Breaks Hearts" to raise public awareness of tobacco addiction's impact on cardiovascular health, Ocampo said, "Heart ailments are the diseases that predominate among smokers."
According to her, a smoker's body tends to compensate for the lack of oxygen by producing too many red blood cells, making the blood thicker, while the nicotine in cigarettes hardens the arteries. The combination of the two, coupled with a smoker's higher cholesterol level, lead to cardiovascular diseases.
Women smokers are also more likely to get cervical and breast cancers, and "their skin ages quicker," while among male smokers, "there is a greater predisposition for prostate and bladder cancers," she said.
The good news is that from the moment a smoker quits smoking, his body begins to feel the benefits, she said. "The first thing that happens is that there is more oxygen (and) the detoxification begins."
The expert noted that for smokers trying to quit tobacco addiction, it is also important to have a healthier lifestyle, including "drinking more water, sleeping better, exercising and seeking recreational activities that are not linked to smoking."
She added that quitting aids such as e-cigarette or vaporizer also contain harmful chemicals or directly damage the lungs.