Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor for atherosclerosis, cerebral and coronary vascular diseases, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus. Chronic smoking impairs endothelial function by decreasing the formation of nitric oxide and increasing the degradation of nitric oxide via generation of oxygen free radicals. Nitric oxide liberated from efferent nitrergic nerves is also involved in vasodilatation, increased regional blood flow, and hypotension that are impaired through nitric oxide sequestering by smoking-induced factors. Influence of smoking on nitric oxide-induced blood flow regulation is not necessarily the same in all organs and tissues. However, human studies are limited mainly to the forearm blood flow measurement that assesses endothelial function under basal and stimulated conditions and also determination of penile tumescence and erection in response to endothelial and neuronal nitric oxide. Therefore, information about blood flow regulation in other organs, such as the brain and placenta, has been provided mainly from studies on experimental animals. Nicotine, a major constituent of cigarette smoke, acutely dilates cerebral arteries and arterioles through nitric oxide liberated from nitrergic neurons, but chronically interferes with endothelial function in various vasculatures, both being noted in studies on experimental animals. Cigarette smoke constituents other than nicotine also have some vascular actions. Not only active but also passive smoking is undoubtedly harmful for both the smokers themselves and their neighbors, who should bear in mind that they can face serious diseases in the future, which may result in lengthy hospitalization, and a shortened lifespan.
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