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Chapter 7: Smoking and Emphysema

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Smoking is an easy target for any illness related to the lungs and respiratory system.  As such, listing it as a cause of emphysema is a somewhat obvious choice, and, as I have already shown, evidence is little more than an avoidable nuisance in the minds of the anti-smoking crusaders.  Let us quickly look at what emphysema is, according to the NHS website:[1]

Emphysema is a serious lung condition that affects the small air sacs in the lungs, called alveoli. The alveoli are small 'balloon-like' structures that are located at the ends of your bronchial tubes. After air has been inhaled into your lungs, it travels through the bronchial tubes and into the alveoli. It is here that oxygen is passed into the blood and carbon dioxide passes out.

Emphysema causes the walls of the alveoli to break down so that larger air spaces are formed. The effect is that the total surface area available for gas exchange is greatly reduced. This means that less oxygen gets into your blood and there is a reduced supply of oxygenated blood to the muscles and vital organs. Also, the waste gas, carbon dioxide, is unable to pass from the blood back into the alveoli where it can be exhaled and, as a result, there is a rise in the amount of this gas in your blood.

Typically, symptoms of emphysema show once 30-50% of lung tissue has been lost. Even more so than cancer, emphysema is a disease of the elderly, which leads to the obvious assumption that it is the result of genes and simple old age rather than anything else. What we are told, though, is that tobacco smoke destroys the alveoli in the lungs, leading to the onset of emphysema.

 [1] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Emphysema/Pages/Introduction.aspx?url=Pages/What-is-it.aspx

This is just a chapter sample. The full chapter is not available to read online.