Tobacco use is a significant risk factor for chronic diseases like cancer, lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. In India, it causes around 1.35 million deaths annually, making it a leading cause of death and disease. India is the second largest consumer and producer of tobacco, with wide availability of inexpensive tobacco products. In India alone, the economic costs associated with tobacco-related diseases for individuals aged 35 years and above amounted to INR 177,341 crore (USD 27.5 billion) in 2017-18. In this article, we will delve into the ways in which smoking addiction develops. We will also discuss whether smokers are aware of their higher chances of getting lung cancer.
How does smoking addiction develop?
Smoking addiction, also known as tobacco addiction, develops through a combination of physiological, psychological, and social factors. Here are the key aspects of how smoking addiction develops:
- Nicotine Dependence: Nicotine is the addictive substance found in tobacco products. When you smoke, nicotine is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, reaching the brain within seconds. It stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Over time, the brain becomes dependent on nicotine to maintain normal dopamine levels, leading to addiction.
- Behavioral Conditioning: Smoking often becomes intertwined with daily routines and activities. People associate smoking with certain situations, such as after meals, during breaks, or while socializing. These contextual cues can create strong psychological connections between the act of smoking and the environment, reinforcing the addiction.
- Psychological Factors: Some individuals may use smoking as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, depression, or other emotional issues. Smoking can provide temporary relief or relaxation, which reinforces the habit as a way to deal with negative emotions. The psychological dependence on smoking can be a significant challenge to overcome during the quitting process.
- Social and Environmental Factors: Social influences, such as peer pressure or exposure to smoking within the family or social circles, can contribute to the development and maintenance of smoking addiction. Additionally, the normalization of smoking in certain cultures or communities may make it more challenging to quit.
Are smokers aware of the increased risk of developing lung cancer?
It is tough to say whether smokers in India know that smoking contributes to lung cancer, or they will get lung cancer. It is important to understand that smoking does not always cause lung cancer. Smoking is a widely studied risk factor that researchers are sure about. However, there is a possibility of other factors that contribute to lung cancer. The Indian government has run many anti-tobacco programs to make smokers aware of lung cancer. The most common ones are warning labels on the packaging of tobacco products and warning snippets before a movie starts in a movie hall.
An article has discussed why some chain smokers never get lung cancer throughout their lives. One reason mentioned that certain individuals exhibit heightened activity of DNA repair genes, which can provide protection against the development of cancers, even in the presence of regular cigarette smoking. The article also informs that although toxic tobacco smoke has been found to induce additional mutations in lung cells, whether these mutations progress into tumors depends on the effectiveness of DNA repair mechanisms and the ability to minimize DNA damage. The study referred to in the article also found that the toxic changes that make healthy cells cancerous increase with age, and among smokers, the DNA damage is even more significant.
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