Ills of Cigarettes

Oct 12th 2005

The lesser-known ills of cigarettes Smokers often overlook stained teeth, premature wrinkles By Beth Aaron/Senior Staff Writer

October 12, 2005

Older people and horses are not the only individuals who could be referred to as "long in the tooth," as smoking in young people can lead to premature gum recession and gum disease, including gingivitis.

Dr. Donna Bacchi-Smith, director of the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, said there are many effects of smoking that smokers may not consider as they take a puff of a cigarette.

Cosmetic effects of smoking include tar and nicotine stained teeth, foul breath, smelly clothes and premature wrinkles, Bacchi-Smith said. These are things that smokers may not notice when they are smoking, she said, but are apparent to other non-smokers.

Gum disease and recession, most often associated with dipping or chewing tobacco, is also a common, unrealized side effect of smoking, Bacchi-Smith said. "That's all kind of the process of getting gum disease," she said. The correlation between tobacco use and gum disease occurs because the chemicals found in cigarettes and other tobacco products has a tendency to land on the inside of a user's mouth, causing inflammation of the gums and eventually, gum recession and development of unhealthy gum tissue, Bacchi-Smith said.

If a smoker quits, some healthy gum tissue and tooth whitening can be retained, but the user's gums and teeth will not completely go back to normal, she said. Professional tooth whitening would be needed to try and fully restore a white smile, Bacchi-Smith said.

Cody Locknane, a junior electronic media major from Pampa, said he began smoking several years ago. Locknane said he smokes light cigarettes at a rate of approximately six or seven per day. However, he said he smokes more when he goes out at night. "If you're going to take out the liver, might as well take out the lungs," he said. The worst thing about smoking is the ashy smell cigarettes leave behind after a long night of drinking and smoking at a club or bar, Locknane said. "That (smell) clings to you," he said.

Other, often overlooked, effects, aside from wrinkles and of smoking include chronic cough, Bacchi-Smith said. Smokers may develop a nasty cough even in the absence of emphysema. However, after a smoker has quit for a week or two, it is not normal to develop a cough, Bacchi-Smith. When someone quits smoking, the negative effects diminish almost immediately, but the body does not necessarily "clean itself out." Quitting smoking does rapidly reduce one's blood pressure, Bacchi-Smith said.

Smokers may also develop yellow fingertips and fingernails caused by holding a cigarette, containing tar and nicotine, for long periods of time, she said. These effects of smoking may sometimes partially wash away with water, but often, they cannot be reversed.

A smoker's taste buds may also be affected, Bacchi-Smith said. Some smokers have been known to over season their food. "It does affect the taste buds in the mouth," she said. Chemicals and tar from cigarettes coat the inside of a smoker's mouth, including their taste buds, she said.

Secondhand smoke, on the other hand, can affect one's sense of smell by clogging up one's nostrils.

Brian Walker, a senior advertising major from Austin, said he has been smoking for about six years. He said he usually smokes between two and six light cigarettes a day. He said he has not noticed any significant changes in his physical health because of smoking, except for the fact that he cannot run as far as he was once able to. Walker believes he is physically addicted to nicotine, but that alcohol plays a big factor in how much he smokes. "I think it's out of boredom, actually," he said. Walker said he tried to quit cold turkey and was successful for a long period of time. He said he quit to play college basketball, but once he decided to retire from the sport he began smoking again. "I quit for about six months," he said.

Though he sometimes quits for weeks at a time to save money on packs of cigarettes, Locknane said he has never seriously tried to quit smoking. Locknane said he would like to believe that he could quit smoking any time he wanted, but he's probably physically addicted to nicotine. "Probably more than I think I am," he said.

Students with a desire to quit smoking should take a well-rounded approach, Bacchi-Smith said. Smokers with an urge to reform may visit the Fitness/Wellness Center at the Tech Robert H. Ewalt Recreational Center and pick up a quit kit, visit Student Health Services at Thompson Hall for advice on how to use nicotine replacements such as the nicotine gum or patch or pick up a prescription for Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin is an anti-depressant that researchers found lessened the urge to smoke in some who took the medication, Bacchi-Smith said. Now, there are some incidences where Wellbutrin is used to treat nicotine addiction.

For more information or help with quitting smoking, call the American Cancer Society Quit Line at 1-800-Quit-Now.