You’re backpacking through the mountains; 1,500 feet above sea level, and you’re starting to run out of breath. If only you’d quit smoking all those months ago…now, you’re paying the price of damaged lungs, reduced heart function, and blood vessels that are struggling to get barely oxygenated red blood cells to your organs and muscles. You’re miserable. But this is the trip everyone has been excited about, and you’re the only one having a bad time.
Being a smoker can wreak havoc on your body, zapping your energy and damaging the body’s most important organs. The heart and lungs share a synchronicity that is disrupted when you smoke regularly. Your blood thickens, your lungs don’t function at optimal levels, and the heart struggles to keep up with the new demand put on it.
Let’s look closer at smoking and the body, how you can give it up, and how not to be the Debbie Downer of the backpacking trip.
The Facts About Smoking
Big tobacco has successfully advertised its products for decades, even going so far as to push ads aimed at children and adolescents. While many of these ads have been censored or banned in recent years, big tobacco still spends billions every year to convince the public that tobacco products simply aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be.
Ads usually depict smoking as sexy, trendy, or desirable, and tobacco companies are always looking for better ways to downplay the harm that tobacco use can cause. Unfortunately for them, truth is inescapable, and movements like truthinitiative.org have worked long hours to expose the tobacco industry’s shady practices.
Prolonged tobacco use can cause cancer, heart and lung disease, skin conditions, premature aging, high blood pressure, and so much more. Just a single cigarette can cause damage to internal organs and jeopardize lung function. Why? Because cigarettes are loaded with toxins, heavy metals, industrial pesticides (poison), and carcinogens.
A typical cigarette contains anywhere from 3,000-7,000 chemicals, dozens of which are known carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents. The direct link between these chemicals and cancers is scientifically proven, so there’s no hiding that from the public.
The interesting thing is that despite such widespread awareness of the dangers of tobacco use, millions of people still use tobacco or smoke cigarettes regularly. We know smoking causes cancer and will eventually kill the smoker given enough time. According to CNN Health, not only is tobacco use engrained in our society, it’s also a “gradual killer”, which means that users don’t typically feel ill effects until they’re already addicted.
With thousands of deaths each year, tobacco use is actually on the decline. Alternative products like tobaccoless chew (https://blackbuffalo.com/) and vaping pens are providing alternatives to smokers who want fewer toxins in their life.
Amazingly, millions of people still workout while smoking, which is really a direct contradiction. Smoking increases blood pressure while reducing the effectiveness of red blood cells, which means your heart is working twice as hard to do the same job. Hypertension causes damage to both cardiac tissue and blood vessels, weakening them and potentially causing a blockage or rupture.
This risk increases when you add physical exertion to the mix. If you’re backpacking through the Andes where the air is thin and the terrain is merciless, you’re going to run into a problem. Smokers already don’t get an adequate supply of oxygen without bringing thin air and physical exertion into the mix.
Don’t Be That Guy
Everyone knows at least one; the type that complains about everything during the trip. It’s too hot, it’s too tough, it’s too humid, there’s no enough food, my feet are sore, my back hurts, my backpack is uncomfortable…get the drift?
Add nicotine withdrawal or lack of oxygen to the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for a grade-A whiner. If you’re a smoker, don’t ruin the trip for everyone else by complaining. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, the terrain is tough and you’re probably struggling to breathe. Maybe, instead of focusing on why the trip is terrible, you should instead focus on all the reasons why you need to leave tobacco behind once and for all; starting with your physical health.
The Bottom Line
Smoking will kill you eventually, there’s no way around it. And before you reach the ultimate inevitable end, you’ll likely experience serious health complications that will make your life miserable and make things like backpacking pretty much impossible. The bottom line? Smoking isn’t synonymous with a quality life. Ditch the habit and focus on your health instead of for a happier, more sustainable lifestyle. You’ll thank me later.