When it comes to tobacco use (cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and e-cigarettes), men are more likely to use these products at a higher rate than women. In 2017, 15.9 percent of men smoked cigarettes compared to 12.2 percent of women. Part of this has to do with cultural norms, income levels, and educational achievement. But men have always led the pack in using all types of tobacco products.
How harmful tobacco is for men health
All tobacco use is harmful to health and can lead to premature death and diseases such as lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, emphysema, COPD, and peripheral vascular disease. Men engaging in using any kind of tobacco are placing themselves at risk of developing these health conditions. Depending on the type of tobacco used by men, often determines what unique health risks men face when using these products. Here is a look at how various types of tobacco used by men affect their health:
Cigarettes contribute to 480,000 American deaths each year. Nicotine is the highly addictive chemical present in the tobacco plant used to manufacture cigarettes. The toxic smoke that comes from cigarettes contains a mix of over 7,000 chemicals that harm almost every organ in the human body. Men who smoke cigarettes will be at risk for heart disease, lung cancer and other types of cancer, lower respiratory diseases, stroke, and diabetes – the first, second, fourth, fifth, and sixth leading causes of death among men in the U.S.
Anyone who smokes cigarettes is 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers. Men fighting prostate cancer and who smoke have a higher risk of dying from the disease than nonsmoking men with prostate cancer.
Other ways cigarette smoking affects men:
- Smoking around pregnant women or children can cause serious health problems, with a higher chance of them developing asthma, allergies, ear infections along with lung cancer.
- Impotence and infertility
- Osteoporosis – can cause thinning or weakening of the bones
- Damages the skin causing significant wrinkling and aging
Men overwhelmingly use cigars more than women do, with 6.8 percent of U.S. adult men reporting they use them compared to only 1 percent of women who smoke cigars. Cigars contain the same chemicals as cigarettes. However, cigar tobacco contains increased levels of some cancer-causing chemicals compared to cigarette tobacco. Men who smoke cigars will have an increased chance of a diagnosis of cancers of the mouth and throat, as users of these products may inhale the smoke. Cigar smokers are also at an increased risk for cardiovascular and respiratory conditions such as coronary heart disease, aortic aneurysms, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Smokeless tobacco or chewing tobacco
Also known as “dip, snuff, or chew,” smokeless or chewing tobacco does not produce smoke but it still a health hazard for men. Again, men are the vast majority of individuals who use smokeless tobacco – 4 percent of U.S. adult men report using smokeless tobacco compared to only 0.2 percent of women. Use of smokeless tobacco is even higher among male high school students at 8.4 percent who report using these products.
Just because smokeless tobacco does not involve smoke, does not mean it’s not addictive. Smokeless tobacco does contain nicotine just like cigarettes, making it an addictive substance. The levels of nicotine circulating in the bloodstream are about the same for people who smoke cigarettes as those who use chewing tobacco. Because smokeless tobacco is often used constantly during the day by users, they will have higher exposure levels to nicotine throughout the day, resulting in high levels of dependence, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms such as intense cravings, increased appetite, irritability, and depressed mood.
The health-related risks associated with smokeless tobacco are many. One problematic risk of using smokeless tobacco is how it harms the teeth and gums. The sugars and irritants in smokeless tobacco products can cause cavities, abrasion of teeth, teeth staining, bad breath, gum disease, receding gums, bone loss around roots and tooth loss. Precancerous mouth lesions can also develop inside the mouth in which small white patches call leukoplakia can appear. There is also an increased risk of more serious life-threatening medical conditions of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas.
For about a decade, e-cigarettes are a fairly new tobacco product sold in the U.S. E-cigarettes or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) are a popular form of tobacco use among men and women. This type of smokeless tobacco is battery-operated that uses a heating element to heat e-liquid from a cartridge releasing a chemical-filled aerosol.
The potential health risks, especially long-term, are still mostly unknown. Some of the e-cigarette aerosols may contain some of the same chemicals found in cigarette smoke and also can contain flavorings which have been found to be harmful to the lungs when inhaled. One study found that two primary ingredients in e-cigarettes – propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin – are toxic to cells. E-cigarettes can produce a number of dangerous chemicals including acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde, all of which can cause lung disease as well as cardiovascular disease.
The healthiest option is to abstain from all tobacco products
The best way to protect men’s health from tobacco is to never start using any tobacco products. If a man is already using any form of tobacco product, quitting is his best option. The effects of quitting using a tobacco product can be detected almost immediately. Within just 20 minutes of quitting, a man’s heart rate drops, 12 hours after, carbon monoxide levels – which displace oxygen in the blood and deprive the heart, brain, and other organs of air – in the blood drop to normal. Within two to four years after quitting any tobacco product, a man’s risk of stroke becomes that of a lifetime nonsmoker.
There are various ways to quit tobacco products but the first place to begin is to ask a doctor’s advice on how to go about it. It can take several attempts to quit using a tobacco product but every attempt is a learning experience and if practiced consistently, will eventually result in a good outcome.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.