In India, more than 35% of adults are consuming different forms of tobacco (smoke forming and smokeless). More than 4,000 different types of chemicals have been found in tobacco and tobacco smoke. Over 60 of these chemicals have been classified as carcinogens (cancer causing agents) by International Agency on Research in Cancer (IARC).Nearly 45% of all cancers among males and 17% among females in India and more than 80% of oral cancers are directly attributable to tobacco use. Smokers spend 25 percent more time in the hospital than nonsmokers, are twice as likely to die before age 65, and may lose up to 20 minutes of life for every cigarette they smoke.
Smoking causes the cilia to stop working
Tobacco apart from being a leading causative factor for cancer, also causes multiple ENT related diseases. The lining of the nose and sinuses is the same as the lining in the lung. There are cilia, or tiny hair-like structures, that clean the nose, sinuses of airborne particulate matter, bacteria, and mucus. Smoking causes the cilia to stop working, which predisposes the smoker to increased infections of sinuses.Normally, all that mucus travels to the back of your throat and you swallow it. When the cilia are damaged by smoking, the mucus backs up in the sinuses and bacteria start to multiply there. This can lead to a sinus infection.
Any kind of smoke can irritate the throat tissues
Passive smoking or secondhand smoke has been linked to snoring, respiratory infections, and ear infections in children. Smoking has been shown to decrease immune function, our bodies defense against fighting diseases. Even after completely stopping smoking, it can take the nose and sinuses several months to several years to get back to normal. Any kind of smoke can irritate the throat tissues, but inhaling cigarette smoke is particularly harmful as they contain more than acceptable levels of formaldehyde and acrolein.
Smokers often experience persistent throat soreness
Smoking frequently causes vocal changes, such as hoarseness and a raspy quality to the voice. Vocal changes associated with smoking occur because of swelling and thickening of the vocal cords. Smokers often experience persistent throat soreness and increased secretions, leading to frequent throat-clearing. During tobacco inhalation, the larger particles are mainly deposited on the laryngeal (voice box) mucosa during inspiration while fine and ultrafine particles deposit during expiration due to convoluted and narrow architecture of voice box. Higher deposition of cigarette smoke to this site predisposes it to a higher incidence (almost 3000 times) of cancer compared to other regions of the airway. Continuous exposure to tobacco smoke has been shown to induce pre-cancerous changes in the lining of mouth, throat eventually leading to full blown cancer.
Cancer is the most serious throat condition that can develop due to smoking. You should visit your doctor as soon as possible in you experience any warning signs or symptoms that might indicate throat or laryngeal cancer, including persistent throat soreness, hoarseness or voice changes, growths or lumps in the throat or neck, bleeding from the nose, throat or coughing up blood, difficulty swallowing or a sensation that something is stuck in the throat.
By Dr. G.V.K Chaitanya Rao
MD, Dr. Rao’s ENT Super speciality Hospitals.