Howstuffworks «how does smoking starve your heart of oxygen?»

Smoking is one of mankind’s crueler pastimes. You try out cigarettes. You get addicted. You’re unable to stop. Eventually, it’s likely that cigarettes kill you. In the United States alone, more than 25 million men and 20 million women smoke. That’s 24 and 21 percent of the entire population source American Heart Association . What does this mean? That a lot of people are starving their hearts of the one thing it needs to function oxygen. We all know that our bodies need oxygen, but some of us may not really understand what that means. So here’s a little respiratory 101

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We breathe in about 35 pounds of air through 20,000 breaths each day source Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency . After we take it in, the air travels past the pharynx, larynx and down the windpipe, or trachea. From there, the trachea comes to a fork in the road and splits into two parts. These are called bronchial tubes, and they carry air into each lung. Along the way, small hairs, called cilia, and mucus clean the air up as best they can before it’s deposited into the lungs.

Air we breathe is made up of different gases, and the most important to us is oxygen. The function of the lungs is to take this oxygen from the air and give it a one way ticket to the bloodstream. The blood carries oxygen directly to the heart, and the heart sends that oxygen rich blood throughout the body. Every cell in our body needs oxygen to function, so you can see why proper lung function is so important. The lungs also remove carbon dioxide from the air, and we breathe it back out into the atmosphere when we exhale. The lungs do their work with the help of millions of tiny, thin walled air sacs called alveoli.

The oxygen concentration is already so high inside the alveoli that it just passes across the membrane into the pulmonary capillaries the body’s smallest blood vessels. Enter hemoglobin the FedEx of proteins. It delivers oxygen in its trucks, or red blood cells. Inside the pulmonary capillaries, the hemoglobin has carbon dioxide bound to it and very little oxygen at first. But hemoglobin wants that oxygen, so it allows the O2 to bind to it by freeing up some room it releases carbon dioxide. Fortunately, it only takes fractions of a second for this gas exchange to take place. The carbon dioxide then leaves the alveolus when you exhale, and the oxygen rich blood returns to the heart.

When you smoke, this whole process breaks down, and you end up starving your poor heart, and the rest of your body, of oxygen.

Smoking electronic cigarettes on planes

Electronic cigarettes are becoming more and more popular, but there are still plenty of people who don’t even know they exist, or how they work. Electronic cigarettes on planes are a possibility, but you can never know for sure if the cabin crew or airline might ask you to stop. Some make their policy clear from the outset, others say nothing at all. While it isn’t technically illegal to vape electronic cigarettes on planes, it might well raise questions, or cause other passengers to be alarmed, so you will always need to approach the situation carefully if you plan on vaping on a plane. Here are some tips on how to best approach smoking electronic cigarettes on planes that have been reported by other e smokers.

1. Explain yourself to cabin crew

Some e smokers have sought and received the permission of cabin crew by simply explaining the e cigarette. You could politely ask cabin crew if you would be permitted to ‘smoke’ your e cigarette on board. Since some flight attendants might be alarmed if you use the term «e cigarette», you might be better off referring to it as a ‘nicotine inhaler’, or just a ‘VAPESTICK ‘. Some e smokers prefer to use pen style e cigarettes, with blue LED lights on planes, as these do not look like regular cigarettes at all and are less likely to cause other passengers to be concerned. You could explain to flight attendants that your e cigarette is a nicotine inhaler and let them know that it produces just a water based mist and does not burn any substances. Don’t hesitate to give them a small demonstration, but try to exhale as little vapour as possible. This strategy has worked very effectively for some e smokers.

2. Smoke in the rest room

This is the most common way we hear of vapers smoking their electronic cigarettes on planes, without any risk of causing alarm to passengers or cabin crew. Just take a quick break and vape your e cigarette in the rest room. You won’t have to worry about anyone noticing that you are vaping, or any smoke alarms being triggered (just as long as you dont lean in close to the alarm device and blow vapour directly into it). The e cigarette vapour dissipates (within a matter of seconds) without leaving behind any lingering smells.

3. Make what you are doing clear

It is always the best approach to let those in your immediate vicinity know that you are vaping (or ‘smoking’) an electronic cigarette. You could accomplish this by speaking in a slightly louder voice when explaining it to flight attendants, so that other passengers in your proximity will also understand what you are doing. You shouldn’t just start vaping without letting anyone know, as this might well cause some people to become alarmed. Electronic cigarettes on planes are technically legal, but diffewrent airlines have different policies and are chnaging them all the time, so you should always approach the situation sensibly and carefully. Taking light drags and keeping the e cigarette somewhat hidden (stealth vaping) could work, but you should still always let the flight attendants know that you are in fact only ‘smoking’ an e cigarette.

The use of Electronic cigarettes on planes has been banned by some airlines, particulalrly those operating in the US. In the UK and Europe, the policies are less clear, and there’s no way of knowing for sure from one day to the next. The easiest way to smoke electronic cigarettes on planes without causing any issues, or raising any concerns, is to just have a quick vape in the rest room from time to time. However, if you do take the direct approach and choose to vape in your seat, make sure that you let cabin crew and other passengers seated next to you know what you are doing before you begin. This will help to ensure that smoking electronic cigarettes on planes does not cause you any problems during your flight.

ARTICLE UPDATE December 2013. Since the above article was originally published, (over 2 years ago), a growing number of airlines have introduced clearer guidance as to whether or not vaping is permitted during their flights. When the airline’s policy is made clear to you, VAPESTICK always recommends that you respect that policy and follow it to the letter. The same applies whether it is an airline, a pub, a business or a property owner. Whether any activity is technically legal or not, individual property and business owners are always able to make (and enforce) their own policy decisions (about anything at all), and all of us are required to respect and follow their policy.