Smoking can have many bad effects on the body, some of which can lead to life-threatening complications. It significantly increases the risk of dying from all causes, not just those linked to tobacco use. Every year, smoking causes 1 out of 5 deaths in the US, according to the estimate of the American Cancer Society.
Smoking affects the respiratory system, the circulatory system, the reproductive system, the skin, and the eyes, and it increases the risk of many different cancers.
Given that smoking causes so much serious damage to the body, it’s important to take a look at possible effects of smoking, for a better understanding of what it does to your body.
Smoking cigarettes affects lung health because a person breathes in, not only nicotine, but also a variety of additional chemicals. Cigarettes are responsible for a substantial increase in the risk of developing lung cancer, which is 25 times greater for men and 25.7 times greater for women. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that roughly 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths are linked to smoking
Smoking cigarettes also presents a greater risk of developing and dying from a long-term lung disease that causes blocked airflow from the lungs, called chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). According to an American Lung Association report, smoking causes 80 percent of COPD deaths.
Cigarettes are also linked to developing a shortness of breath (emphysema) and long-term infection of the main airways of the lungs or bronchi, causing them to become irritated and inflamed (chronic bronchitis). They can also trigger or worsen an asthma attack.
Smoking cigarettes can damage the heart, blood vessels, and blood cells.
The chemicals and tar in cigarettes can increase a person's risk of a build-up of plaque in the blood vessels (atherosclerosis). This build-up limits blood flow and can lead to dangerous blockages.
Smoking also increases the risk of narrowing of the arteries to the arms and legs, restricting blood flow, a condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD). Research shows a direct link between smoking and developing PAD. Even those who used to smoke face a higher risk than people who never smoked.
Having PAD increases the risk of experiencing the following conditions:
Smoking cigarettes can damage a female's reproductive system and make it more difficult for some females to get pregnant. This may be because tobacco and the other chemicals in cigarettes affect hormone levels.
In males, the more cigarettes a person smokes and the longer they smoke for, the higher the risk of erectile dysfunction. Smoking can also affect the quality of the sperm and therefore reduce fertility.
According to the CDC, smoking can affect pregnancy and the developing fetus in several ways, including:
The CDC report that people who smoke regularly have a 30–40 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who do not. Smoking can also make it more difficult for people with diabetes to manage their condition.
Smoking cigarettes can weaken a person's immune system, making them more susceptible to illness. It can also cause additional infection in the body.
Smoking cigarettes can cause eye problems, including a greater risk of developing cloudy patches on the lens or a small transparent disc inside your eye (cataracts) and a common condition that affects the middle part of your vision, called age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Other vision problems related to smoking include:
People who smoke have double the risk of gum disease. This risk increases with the number of cigarettes a person smokes.
Symptoms of gum disease include:
Smoking tobacco can limit a person's ability to taste and smell things properly. It can also stain the teeth yellow or brown.
Smoking tobacco can affect a person's skin and hair. A person who smokes may experience prematurely aged, wrinkled skin. They also have a higher risk of skin cancer, "especially on the lips."
Smoking can cause the hair and skin to smell of tobacco. It can also contribute to hair loss and balding.
In addition to the well-documented link with lung cancer, smoking cigarettes can also contribute to other forms of cancer. The American Cancer Society reported that cigarette smoking causes 20–30 percent of pancreatic cancers. People who smoke are also three times as likely to develop bladder cancer than people who do not. Smoking cigarettes can also double a person's risk of stomach cancer. Tobacco is especially linked to stomach cancers that occur near the esophagus (tube connecting the throat or pharynx with the stomach).
Cigarettes can also increase the risk of other forms of cancer, including:
The negative effects of smoking cigarettes do not only affect people who smoke. Secondhand smoke can also have significant health effects on family members, friends, and coworkers, who do not smoke themselves.
The effects of exposure to secondhand smoke include:
You will need the support of your close friends and family, should you decide to quit smoking and chances are that they will be thrilled for you if you decide to quit smoking. So, quitting smoking is a wise decision all-round, not only for your own health, but also the health of your close friends and family, the support of whom you will rely if you decide to quit smoking.
While quitting smoking can be challenging, there are more people who used to smoke than those who currently smoke. You’re likely to succeed if you take the right steps to prepare yourself.
Once you stop smoking, the benefits are almost instant and start accumulating, as your body begins to heal in as little as 20 minutes after the last cigarette is smoked. These benefits include clearer skin, improved oral health, more stable hormones, a stronger immune system, and a reduced risk of many types of cancers.
Your doctor or other healthcare professional can help you take positive steps toward quitting smoking, if you’re thinking about quitting.
In addition, you may check with your local hospital to see if they offer a program; or call any of the national quit-smoking lines, such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI). They offer support over the phone and can help with different ways of quitting. Here are their contact details, including toll-free number: