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What is the news on how long it will take for lungs
to recover after years of heavy smoking? Will the cilia
cleaning system get back to normal? What about neural damage?

I use nicotine gum, already for more then a year, and
occasionally still smoke, but most weeks only 1 or 2 in
a whole week. Still too difficult to stop completely.

Apart from keeping the addiction with nicotine gum,
what damage does nicotine do?

– P.


Dear P.,

Thank you for your question! Nicotine, aside from being
a highly addictive drug, causes a rise in blood pressure
and an increase in heart rate. It may also have a depressant
effect. As with any drug, there is a risk of overdosing.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, 60 milligrams
of nicotine is fatal. When smoking, only a small amount
of nicotine is ingested (approximately 2.5 mg per cigarette
for regular smoking).

In general, recovery after smoking cessation is dependant
on the individual, and more specifically, when they have
stopped. If the individual stopped smoking prior to the
onset of irreversible heart and circulatory disease, the
body begins to repair itself in the following ways:

  • after 6 months, coughing, sinus congestion, tiredness,
    and shortness of breath improve
  • after 1 year, risk of smoking-related heart attack is
    reduced by one-half
  • after 10 to 15 years of non-smoking, risk of heart attack
    is about the same as that of someone who has never smoked
    (Canadian Cancer Society,

In terms of cilia damage in the lungs, when cilia are repeatedly
exposed to smoke they become permanently destroyed and lose
their ability to carry out their main function (i.e. move
particles past the cells surface). If this happens, the
smoker’s lungs can be even more exposed than before.
Even light smoking is harmful and can lead to lung damage.
Again, the extant of damage does depend on one’s smoking

For more information please speak with your doctor or a
campus health professional:


Dr. Tobacco Jack

Dear Dr. Tobacco Jack:

If nicotine is so terrible for me, then why is it an
ingredient in those quit-smoking patches and gum?

– Smokin’ Red Hot

Dear Smokin’:

Thank you for your question! Nicotine is a highly addictive
drug. In small doses, as is found in cigarettes, it acts
as a stimulant – it releases noradrenalin and increases
heart rate in addition to other effects. When a person who
has smoked for a long time tries to quit smoking, it is
extremely difficult for them because they have developed
a dependence. This means that if they do not smoke their
cigarette, and thus not get their nicotine fix, they will
develop withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, headaches,
and lack of concentration. What the products you mentioned
do is supply nicotine to the individual in a “healthier”
manner. When smoking cigarettes you are not only supplying
nicotine, but also ingesting carcinogens (which cause cancer),
ciliotoxins (which destroy the cleaning system in your lungs),
and carbon monoxide (think of the stuff that comes out of
the rear of your car!). With steps taken with these gums
or patches, the dosage of nicotine is gradually decreased
until the individual is no longer dependent on the drug.
If you have any more questions, do not hesitate to speak
with a health professional or pharmacist.

Sincerely Yours,

Dr. Tobacco Jack

Dear Dr. Tobacco Jack:

I am a dancer and have been smoking for about 5 years
now. I want to quit but I’m afraid of gaining weight.
I don’t know what I should do!

– Confused Ballerina

Dear Confused:

Thank you for your question! When individuals quit smoking,
they often find that their appetites change. They often
eat more and find comfort in having something in their mouth
to replace their cigarette. This problem does not occur
with everyone, and most weight gain is only within 5 pounds.
The thing to do is ensure that you are eating well and making
healthy food choices. You will find that when you quit,
your taste buds will improve dramatically! So long as your
cigarette break is not always substituted for a chocolaty
feast, weight gain should not be substantial. If you have
any more questions you should speak with a physician or
nutritional councilor.

Sincerely Yours,

Dr. Tobacco Jack

Do you have a question for Dr. Tobacco Jack?
Email him at [email protected]




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