As kids, we lived in a house with a chimney. My dad would show us the soot that collected inside and explain to us the risks of smoking. He drew a powerful visual analogy between the soot inside the chimney and our lungs. It was not easy to smoke after that. Many people however still smoke and warnings, images and slogans that tell you “this kills you” still does not prevent people from doing so. I recall following a congressional hearing that was reviewing a packet of cigarettes being spiked with nicotine to make your smoke more. Recent research on the impact of smoking measured on your DNA might help change your mind.

In a study conducted on over 16,000 people, research showed that smoking left marks on your DNA in a process called methylation. This process made changes to your DNA at a molecular level, the impact of which could last for over thirty years. Even after quitting, while the severity reduced over time, it left permanent damage that could not be reversed through any known science. The smoke from a cigarette contains over seventy known chemicals known to cause cancer. It does this by damaging the ways that cells function creating free radicals in your body. The research also found that the damage was being caused to cells in your body that were not directly exposed to the smoke for example your kidneys and pancreas. Even smoking a few packs in your lifetime left scars that were not reversible.

For many of us who live in polluted cities, this is cause for great worry as along with smoking or inhaling second hand smoke, we also have to worry about the pollution from the air we breathe. There are days when you do really have to question the positive impact of development. When confronted with having to smoke up to thirty cigarettes as the price for living in Delhi, you have to ask yourself “Is it worth it?”


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.