It’s pretty common to see people smoking before scuba diving and you might think, “Well, if all of these people are doing it, it can’t be that bad.”
It’s true, a lot of scuba divers are smokers.
It’s also true that the risks of smoking in general are horrific, but for the most part are long term risks. Most smokers don’t experience any side effects, other than physical addiction, for many years. However, because scuba diving is a physical sport, some side effects may show themselves sooner than others.
Here’s what is known about it.
How does smoking before scuba diving affect the diver?
The most immediate, recognized effect of inhaling cigarette smoke right before diving is the increase of carbon monoxide in the diver’s bloodstream. Carbon monoxide binds to hemoglobin 250 times better than oxygen. The reason why this is important is because carbon monoxide will decrease the body’s ability to complete oxygen gas exchange. This can be dangerous for you as a scuba diver because scuba diving requires energy and oxygen is the fuel that keeps your body going. Without it, heart failure can follow…
Also, smoking causes vasoconstriction (which means narrowing of the blood vessels) which could affect nitrogen gas washout! Hello DCS! (decompression sickness)
What about heart health?
It is common knowledge that heart failure is the #1 killer in scuba diving. Smoking increases the probability of heart failure due to its effects on blood pressure, build up of blood clots (plaque) and the drop in oxygen gas exchange. Therefore, divers who smoke are the most at-risk group for accidents.
And smoking damage in the lungs?
Breathing in smoke, especially chemically laden smoke, naturally means that the respiratory tract will be the first major victim. There are cilia (tiny hairs) along your respiratory tract. These hairs are responsible for clearing gunk and mucus from the lungs. Smoking directly damages these hairs which means that they are no longer capable of doing their function. That is why long term smokers cough so much. They are having to manually force the junk out of their lungs because the cilia are no longer doing their job.
Effects of smoking long term.
Cancer rates are also astronomically high.
Breathing in poisonous smoke long term means putting stress on your body. Hydrogen monoxide isn’t the only dangerous thing involved either! Other fun, poisonous gases include hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen cyanide. This is why your friends get upset with the smoking going on around them. The poison affects everyone in the area and second hand smoke can be just as big of a killer…
Is it time to stop?
Smoking causes about 1 in 5 deaths in the United States and is one of the leading and mostly avoidable deaths out there. The habit of smoking itself is one of the only ‘socially acceptable’ addictions left in this day and age. However, as with all other addictions, it hurts your body and holds you back from learning healthy coping mechanisms. The good thing is that after quitting smoking, the body can generally reverse the harm done, as long as too many years have not gone by.
Do yourself and your dive buddies a favor… quit smoking now👌🏻
We are a PADI dive center in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia offering daily dive trips to the Komodo National Park. The PADI courses available include Discover Scuba Diving, Open Water, Advanced, Rescue, EFR, Divemaster and Sidemount. Join us for an unforgettable experience diving in one of the top dive destinations in the world!