News Flash: Smoking More Dangerous to HIV Patients

It’s not the 1950’s anymore. No one can pretend they don’t know that cigarettes are bad for their health…but they present an even more severe health threat to HIV patients.

The Effects of Smoking

Numbers vary, but on average, cigarettes contain more than 300 different chemicals, most of them carcinogenic. Here’s what that means on a cellular level:

The toxins in cigarette smoke release free radicals—free-ranging electrons that break other molecular bonds to stabilize. The molecular bonds attacked are those in your cells.

There are various effects:

Damaged cells—free radicals may simply destroy healthy cells and tissues. That’s actually what happens in the aging process—it’s why skin sags and wrinkles. Smoking makes that happen faster and all over your body.

Cancer growth—by stabilizing themselves, free radicals destabilize other cell compositions, encouraging mutation, and that’s how most cancers develop

Because the chemicals in cigarettes and cigarette smoke are most potent around where they are inhaled, the most common health consequences include oral, throat and lung cancers.

Effects Exacerbated by Immune Deficiency

No one is immune from the effects of smoking, but HIV patients are particularly susceptible because their immune system is already compromised.

A healthy immune system can repair damaged cells and/or destroy mutated cells before they multiple. Bodies of those with HIV just cannot fight the same way, leaving them at a significantly higher risk for health complications, cancers and eventually death.

UNM Truman Health Services can offer support to HIV patients trying to kick the habit. Contact us to learn more about resources to help you quit smoking.