Food – Smoking and Your Respiratory System

True temperance teaches us to dispense entirely with everything hurtful and to use judiciously that which is healthful.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 562. It is common knowledge that smoking is hurtful though often we do not understand the reasons or extent of the harmfulness of this offending habit. Our goal is to make you more informed so you will understand and be able to share with others more fully some of the effects that smoking has on the respiratory system.

In Genesis 2:7 we learn that God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. This is a true love story in that God merely spoke the rest of the universe into existence: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” Psalm 33:6, 9. However, after lovingly forming Adam, the crowning act of creation, He personally breathed into his nostrils and imparted to man the breath of life.

The respiratory system is one of the primary targets of cigarette smoking. It is made up of two lungs, an immense system of air tubes that are lined and end in over 300 million small air sacs. Within the lungs and surrounding these air sacs is a massive system of arteries, capillaries and veins. The lungs hold about 4–5 quarts (liters) of air and with each breath the average adult takes in about ½ a quart (500 cc) of air. At rest we breathe about 16 times a minute and 12,000 quarts of air each day. As this air enters the body, it is warmed and cleansed by the nose, cilia (small hair-like projections from the lining of the breathing tubes) and the mucus within the breathing tubes. It is in these microscopic air sacs that the oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide via the blood stream. As the oxygen rich blood from the lungs is taken to the body, every cell is nourished and strengthened for life and work.

Tobacco is a slow, insidious and most malignant poison. It is known to have over 4,000 chemical agents, 43 of which are known to cause cancer in humans. Cancer of the respiratory system is greatly increased in smokers, with lung cancer being 700% greater. Eighty percent of those who have vocal cord cancer are smokers, and the incidence of cancer of the mouth and esophagus is increased in smokers. Of those who die from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, 85% were smokers. These frightening statistics are related to the physical effects of smoking on the respiratory system: the cilia are paralyzed, damaged and cannot sweep foreign matter out of the lungs, the excess mucous created from smoking clogs the airways, the small air sacs become distended, trap air and eventually rupture, forming large ineffective sacs. Eventually, the rib cage becomes barrel shaped because of excess trapped air, the blood pressure elevates and the entire system is deprived of oxygen in an attempt to push blood through the damaged air sacs. All the while this is going on, the carcinogenic chemicals in the smoke irritate and put the entire system at risk for cancer.