Contrary to popular belief, smoking doesn’t only harm the lungs of a smoker, and cancer isn’t the only threat to a smoker’s health. Inhaling tobacco smoke can cause damage to most of the body’s organs and systems.
Although the public understands that smoking cigarettes is unhealthy, the lack of transparent information on the damage that can be done from smoking can also be dangerous.
Table of Contents
- Short-term effects
- Long-term effects
- Societal damage
- Smoking Causes Cancer
- How smoking affects:
– the circulatory system
– the immune system
– the respiratory system
– the musculoskeletal system
– your vision
– the sexual organs
You will start to notice some changes right away as soon as you use cigarettes. Your fingers will yellow, your breath and hair and clothes will smell like smoke, and your teeth will stain. You may also develop a hacking cough and suffer many of the symptoms of allergies, such as a runny nose, fever, itchiness and mucous buildup.
Maybe none of those sound too bad to you, but the effects of smoking are just beginning at that point. Over time, you will start to notice a lack of athletic ability, as your lung capacity diminishes and you have a harder time staying active. You will also see blood pressure increases and throat irritability.
Over time, all the problems above become much worse. Let’s start with the least awful problems.
The staining on your hands and teeth will worsen. Your fingers will start to shake when you need a cigarette. The cravings will be much more intense the longer you go without a cigarette; getting near others who are smoking or smell like smoke can also trigger cravings easily. What was once an enjoyable habit has become a necessity.
You will also notice that your breathing may have become more ragged. That’s because scar tissue is building up in through throat and lungs. Your entire respiratory system is breaking down because of the smoking habit. That scar tissue means the cancer is probably in your future. You can look forward to dealing with lung, throat and mouth cancer. You won’t have to deal with them for very long though, as they can lead to death.
If they don’t cause you to die, then you will at least need to have sections of your throat, mouth, and lungs removed. Mechanical replacements can be used instead, but they won’t be pleasant to deal with.
Now those were just physical damages we considered, but there are others you need to be aware of as well. Smoking is basically prohibited in all public places in the United States. Practically all restaurants, stores, shopping centers, and even parks have outlawed its use. The only public places you can really use cigarettes are out on the street and in some bars and smoking lounges.
You may also find that once you start smoking, you are not treated the same way. People may not want to have their children around you or may not want to be around you themselves. They are likely worried about the effects of secondhand smoke and don’t want to endure any of the physical problems associated with smoking for themselves.
Smoking Causes Cancer
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer. 4 out of 5 cases of lung cancer are linked with smoking cigarettes. It also increases the risk of at least 13 other types of cancer including:
- Esophagus cancer
- Mouth and upper throat cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Bowel cancer
- Pancreas cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Larynx cancer
Emphysema, which means “destruction of the lung” is a type of COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The condition damages breathing tubes in the lungs. It also destroys air sacs, making breathing difficult. Smoking is a leading cause of emphysema.
How Smoking Affects the Circulatory System
Cigarette smoke damages the heart and blood cells. It can also cause:
- Aneurysms – an expanded and weakened area in the artery. Once it ruptures it can result in internal bleeding, stroke and death.
- Atherosclerosis – a buildup of fats and other substances in arteries. The buildup can block the artery or cause a rupture resulting in death.
- Coronary heart disease – the damage to, and weakening of the heart’s major arteries.
- Elevated blood pressure – which can lead to heart disease and stroke.
To find out more about heart conditions and smoking please refer to The Effects of Smoking: Heart Disease.
How Smoking Affects the Immune System
- Smoking can damage the immune system and make the smoker more susceptible to diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and influenza.
- Crohn’s disease – it’s an inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract. Symptoms include abdomen pain, diarrhea, and fatigue.
- Smoking doubles your risk of rheumatoid arthritis – a chronic inflammation of the joints, especially the ones in hands and feet. Symptoms include joint pain and swelling.
To learn more visit How Smoking Affects The Immune System.
How Smoking Affects the Respiratory System
Cigarette smoke damages your lungs and irritates your windpipe and voice box. It also worsens asthma. Smoking can cause:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing. The main diseases that make up COPD are emphysema -the result of the damage to the linings in the lungs caused by the toxins in cigarette smoke and chronic bronchitis.
- Pneumonia – an infection that causes inflammation of the air sacks and can cause the lungs to fill up with fluid. Symptoms include a wet cough with phlegm or pus, fever and difficulty breathing.
- Tuberculosis – it’s a serious bacterial lung infection. Symptoms include coughing, weight loss, fever, and fatigue.
To learn more visit The Effects of Smoking: COPD.
Smoking and Asthma
Smoking can lead to the development of asthma in both smokers and non-smokers who breathe in secondhand smoke. Smoking can also worsen the symptoms of anyone with asthma. Breathing in secondhand smoke can also lead to increased asthma attacks. Secondhand smoke also precludes the development of asthma in young children.
How Smoking Affects the Musculoskeletal System
- Decrease bone density. Smoking increases the risk of osteoporosis – a condition that weakens the bones and makes them more susceptible to trauma.
- The carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke decreases the strength of your muscles and hinders their growth.
Higher incidence of osteoporosis in the elderly
Older smokers are up to 40% more likely than nonsmokers to suffer a hip fracture in their lifetimes, says the AAOS. Injuries are also often more severe and take longer to heal than those of nonsmokers.
Slower healing times
Smokers tend to suffer from injuries that last a lot longer than nonsmokers. This is due to damage to the injured area itself, as well as a lowered immune response. Studies also suggest that smoking can prevent bones from absorbing calcium, an important mineral that helps bones achieve their density. Smokers also process estrogen more quickly, which is another factor in the development of dense bones.
Find more information at Smoking and Diabetes.
Smoking and Weight Lifting
Carbon monoxide and other chemicals in cigarette smoke make it more difficult for vital organs and muscles to absorb oxygen. This effect makes any physical exercise harder, especially weightlifting or muscle conditioning. Smoking affects physical performance, as well as energy levels, which are counterproductive for weightlifters.
How Smoking Affects Your Vision
Smokers are up to four times more likely to go blind in old age. Smoking increases the risk of:
- Cataracts – the clouding of the lens of the eye. Symptoms include blurred vision, sensitivity to light and vision loss. Smoking doubles your chances of developing cataracts.
- Macular degeneration – a disease that causes a loss in the center of the field of vision. Symptoms include seeing spots, blurry vision and straight lines appearing curved. Smoking triples your chances of developing macular degeneration.
- Uveitis – it’s an inflammation of the middle of the eye. Symptoms include pain, redness and eye sensitivity.
Find out more about How Smoking Affects Your Vision.
How Smoking Affects the Sexual Organs
For men, smoking increases the risk of:
- Lower sperm count and a higher percentage of deformed sperm.
- Genetic damage to sperm.
- Impotence caused by the decreased circulation of blood.
For women, smoking causes:
- A decrease in fertility.
- Irregularities of the menstrual cycle.
- An earlier menopause.
Smoking and Aging
Cigarette smoking, as well as the chemicals in the smoke, can speed up the aging process. Wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots all appear earlier for smokers than for non-smokers.
Smokers also develop yellowed teeth, hair loss, and stained fingers, unlike people who do not smoke. Quitting slows down the aging process, along with exercise, and a healthier diet.
How Smoking Affects Diabetes
Research shows that smoking causes type 2 diabetes.
Smoking increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 30-40%. The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher the chance of developing diabetes becomes. In addition, smoking makes any type of diabetes more difficult to control.
Smokers are more likely to have trouble with insulin doses.
Smoking During Pregnancy
Smoking during pregnancy can do serious harm to the unborn baby. The effects include:
- Drastically increasing the risk of miscarriages and stillbirths.
- Increasing the risk of premature birth.
Secondhand smoking can be equally harmful to the fetus.
To find out more visit: Smoking and Women’s Health.
The effects of smoking are far-reaching and numerous. Long-term smoking can damage the body beyond repair. Surgeries may result in disfigurement and amputation. Surgeries may even result in dependence upon machines such as oxygen tanks to breathe and voice stimulators for the simple act of speech. Throat cancers may further result in total voice loss. Damage to the body may become severe enough to eventually result in death.
Other Effects of Cigarette Smoking
Secondhand smoke is perhaps the worst effects of smoking. It is the one effect that goes beyond simply harming the smoker and harming other innocent people around them. Check out this page to learn everything you’d ever want to know about secondhand smoke.
Smoker’s cough is simply any a cough caused by smoking tobacco. It could simply be your body clearing out the lungs of the tar, or it could be a symptom of something more. Be sure to check out the page to learn more about what smoker’s cough is and what you can do about it.
Just like smoker’s cough, smoker lungs are simply lungs that have been affected for a long period of time by inhalation of tobacco smoke. Check out this page to see the difference between smoker and non-smoker lungs and to learn more about the damage smoking does to the lungs.
Tobacco – The Silent Killer
Here are some scary facts about smoking, some of which might surprise you:
- Every year, more than 480,000 Americans die because of smoking tobacco – that’s nearly one in every five deaths
- According to cancer.org, more than 6 million people die around the globe annually, with 30% dying from cancer and other diseases caused because of smoking side effects
- Tobacco has caused more deaths in the US than all the American wars combined
- According to a CDC fact sheet, more deaths are caused by tobacco every single year than combined deaths caused by illicit drug abuse, alcohol use, HIV, road accidents, and gunshots
Most people think that smoking affects your lungs only, but as a matter of fact, every major organ in your body bears the negative effects of tobacco when you smoke. However, the biggest weapon of tobacco is tar and other 7000+ chemicals that are produced when it burns. More than 70 chemicals found in tobacco are known to cause cancer. In addition to causing lung cancer, smoking can cause cancer in several other organs such as oral cavity, lips, bronchus, esophagus, larynx, stomach, pancreas, kidney, liver, nasal cavity, colon, rectum, and trachea.
What About Effects of Light and Menthol Cigarettes?
Well, there is no such thing as a less harmful cigarette, let alone a safe cigarette.
Menthol cigarettes contain an additive that gives the smoke a minty taste. These brands of cigarettes became popular in the late 1970s. Tobacco advertising marketed them as safer, and more enjoyable, which were all untrue. People who smoke menthol cigarettes take deeper inhales, hold the smoke longer in their lungs, and cause more damage to their bodies than regular cigarettes.
Milds, lights, low-tar, and menthols are nothing but a marketing strategy by the big tobacco companies to lure people into their net. Whether or not a mild or light cigarette has the same amount of tar and nicotine as a regular cigarette, but researches show that they are equally harmful.
As for menthol cigarette, while some people think they are less harmful, however, this isn’t true again. In fact, menthol cigarettes are considered more addictive than the non-menthol cigarettes, although more research is required on how and why addiction differs between menthol and regular cigarettes. Just like lights and menthols, cigars and pipes also carry same or similar risks.
To find out which quit smoking method is best for you, visit: Quit Smoking for Good — The Best Quit Smoking Guide