June 25, 2019 | 71° F

Smoking obviously bad for you

Operating under the illusion that our health mystically regenerates itself, or more simply that our body's lines of defense are somewhat impenetrable, habits that assault our organs prevail. Specifically, somewhere between chain smoking at a social event and the brief work smoke break, we have failed to seriously consider the repercussions of our highly destructive actions — or consider them at all. Inadvertent unhealthy activities are one thing: Breathing in secondhand smoke, forgetting to pack sun screen for a day at the beach and being far too occupied to exercise for a substantial amount of time are far from ameliorating for one's health, but they are not blatant, self-appointed unhealthy decisions. On the other end of the spectrum, smoking cigarettes is an example of a consciously pernicious activity that does wonders to accelerate the breakdown of the body.

It doesn't seem to be substantial enough to present smokers with the cold hard facts. That smoking induces diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of people a year, including lung cancer, coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and more isn't quite riveting enough. That the combination of carbon monoxide and nicotine in each cigarette is a perfect prescription for a heart attack due to its strain on one's heart and blood vessels from the temporary acceleration of blood pressure and heart rate isn't quite startling enough. That inveterate smoking can result in emphysema, the slow deterioration of the lung tissue that manifests itself in repeated assaults of bronchitis and perhaps lung and heart failure, isn't quite convicting enough. Basically, smoking stresses out the body in an irreversible, fat depositing, blood vessel blocking, lung rotting way. The diseases and statistics that are directly linked to smoking, far from clandestine, are commonly known and apparently commonly ignored. Why do smokers so adamantly tighten their fingers around their precious packs of cigarettes, disregarding the elucidated health risks that ravage their bodies with every puff?

Most obviously, our lungs, heart and blood vessels do not occupy the outer surfaces of our body, making it quite difficult to view the ghastly consequences of smoking. Skin, our largest organ, does a pretty good job of ensuring that those tissues stay well concealed, preventing our glances in the mirror to include an updated status of our circulatory tissue. A shame this is, for perhaps if smokers could see the effects of their habit diurnally, they would quickly realize how smoking demotes the body into a highly unattractive entity. As an image obsessed society, perhaps we would lament the disturbing picture that the mirror reflects and cease the nasty habit that is at the root of it. But alas, since the most wicked damage reigns internally, smoking is readily equated with little more than some minor teeth yellowing and maybe a bit of a sallow complexion; the rest are all casualties that are out of sight and, consequently, out of mind.

Another presumptuous and fraudulent belief is our tendency to feel as though our ripe age will advocate for us, repelling all intrusions on our health or at least saving diseases for our later years. This notion is in tandem with the general feeling of invincibility that we feel in our youthful state; the stress that we are putting our bodies through won't manifest itself until we are older, so why currently fret about the damage? Our lungs are a strong, resilient tissue, correct? Seriously, will smoking just to take the edge off during several years in college really blacken and rot them so much, if at all? Will my skin, voice, nails and teeth really be indicative of my habit, especially if it was merely a former one? And so the web of self-reasoning is continuously sloppily spun, not crafted strongly enough to actually be considered a legitimate argument, but just strong enough to catch the gullible and perhaps irresponsible in its crosshairs.

Further, while smoking clearly has the potential to decimate the health of the smoker whether they want to readily acknowledge it yet or not, it does no favors for the uninvolved bystander. To decrease the vitality of the life of a nonsmoker who is in the vicinity of your smoke break is, to be candor, quite rude. Secondhand smoke, since it is the watered down version of "real" smoke, is not generally associated with great health risks, but it does in fact significantly assault the body. The American Heart Association assures us that "it's also important to avoid other people's smoke. … Each year about 38,000 people die from heart and blood vessel disease caused by other people's smoke. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent."

The cold hard facts will always be the cold hard facts. Yes, you can attempt to justify your smoking habit with the youthfulness of your body, the fact that visibly, your health appears to be in tact and an assortment of other mindlessly selected alibis. But none of these excuses will undo the physiological depredation of your health no matter how fervidly you attempt to believe them.

Jenna Greenfield is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. Her column, "Triumphs and Woes," runs on alternative Wednesdays. 

Jenna Greenfield

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