Tobacco use, the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States, kills about 500,000 Americans each year, while another 16 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking. Tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive stimulant.
Smoking damages almost every organ of the body. Secondhand smoke exposure also can cause many serious illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, in nonsmoking adults, while it can cause sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear infections, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks in children.
Using a hookah to smoke tobacco is associated with many of the same health risks as smoking cigarettes, as well as additional ones. Carbon used to heat the tobacco can produce high levels of carbon monoxide, metals, and cancer-causing agents.
The use of e-cigarettes is dangerous as well. E-cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol that users inhale. The liquid usually has nicotine and flavoring in it as well as other additives. E-cigarettes are considered tobacco products because most of them contain nicotine.
Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes may contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including:
- Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
- Flavorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
- Volatile organic compounds
- Heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead
Using smokeless tobacco products does not decrease the risks associated with tobacco use. Chewing tobacco, which can lead to nicotine addiction, may cause cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas. It also is associated with other diseases of the mouth, may increase the risk for death from heart disease and stroke, can increase risks for early delivery and stillbirth when used during pregnancy, and can cause nicotine poisoning in children.
The Mercer County Division of Public Health has partnered with New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES), the state’s regional poison control center, to provide more information on emerging health and safety educational topics. If you have questions about cigarettes or tobacco-containing products, help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from NJPIES at 800-222-1222. All calls are free and confidential, and when needed, NJPIES responds to other emergent health issues by expanding hotline services. New Jersey residents are encouraged to save NJPIES’ number in their mobile phones and post it somewhere in their residences.