It’s widely accepted knowledge that smoking isn’t good for you – you don’t need a doctor or a dive pro to teach you that. However, the consequences of smoking and diving, especially right before or after a dive, can cause some health-related issues. The two main consequences relate to chronic obstructions in the lungs (emphysema) as well as your body’s reduced ability to transport oxygen efficiently.[singlepic id=371 w=320 h=240 float=right]The usage of cigarettes leads to obstructions in what’s called your “alveoli”. These are the little hollow cavities where oxygen is transported into your bloodstream. When everything is working normally, these cavities can equalize freely when breathing upon ascent or descent during a dive. However, long term cigarette use can cause these alveoli to become obstructed, preventing proper equalization, and possibly resulting in what’s called a pulmonary barotrauma (or simply a pressure –related injury in your lungs) and even more severe, an arterial gas embolism (air trapped in the bloodstream). Furthermore, smoking increase the mucus production in the lungs which can turn into “plugs” which can also cause equalization problems inside of your lungs. [singlepic id=372 w=320 h=240 float=left]The other main problem is that smoking interferes with your body’s ability to transport oxygen. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (a long term side effect of smoking) reduces the amount of oxygen your blood can carry and also increase the retention of carbon dioxide. Cigarette smoke also contains carbon large quantities of monoxide (CO). Because CO binds so quickly (220-290 times faster!) with your hemoglobin than O2, as CO increases in your bloodstream, the amount of available O2 quickly decreases. In fact, for heavy users, up to 15% of your oxygen can be replaced by carbon monoxide! Having a smoke right before or after a dive causes these CO levels to jump very quickly. This causes a whole host of issues, but the main effect will be a decreased ability to off-gas excess nitrogen, which can lead to an increased chance of decompression sickness.
It’s pretty clear that smoking isn’t good for you, whether we’re talking about diving or not. With the increased complications of diving and breathing compressed air, by not allowing smoking on our boats we’re simply looking to ensure that you have the safest and most enjoyable diving experience that you can. Also, there’s no smelly smoke to put up with our dirty cigarette butts finding their way into our dive sites! We’re proud to say that here at Sairee Cottage Divers, we’re one of the very few dive shops on Koh Tao who have a tobacco-free boat and we plan on keeping it that way. Combine that with our Bauer Pure Air Award and it’s clean air the way!
If you want to learn more about smoking and diving, there’s a huge amount of data available on the internet. Check it out!
Sources: Deco For Divers, Mark Powell, AquaPress Ltd.