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Just One Cigarette Can Harm DNA

Even brief exposure to tobacco smoke causes immediate harm to the body, damaging cells and inflaming tissue in ways that can lead to serious illness and death, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s new report on tobacco released December 9, 2010, the first such report in 4 years.

While the report focuses on the medical effects of smoke on the body, it also sheds light on why cigarettes are so addictive: They are designed to deliver nicotine more quickly and more efficiently than cigarettes did decades ago.

Every exposure to tobacco, from occasional smoking or secondhand smoke, can damage DNA in ways that lead to cancer.

“Tobacco smoke damages almost every organ in your body,” says Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. In someone with underlying heart disease, she says “One cigarette can cause a heart attack.

Recent changes in the design and ingredients in cigarettes have made them more likely to hook first-time users and keep older smokers coming back, Benjamin says. Some recent changes in design include:

*Ammonia added to tobacco, converts nicotine into a form that gets to the brain faster.

*Filter holes that allow people to inhale smoke more deeply into the lungs.

*Sugar and “moisture enhancers” to reduce the burning sensation of smoking, making it more pleasant, especially for new users.

For more information on the dangers of smoking see my Health Tip article titled “The Smoking Gun.”

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