Woman smoking in front of another woman

The Dangers of Smoking and How It Affects the Body

More than a billion people around the world still smoke despite the fact it is well documented how much this habit can seriously harm the body. From heart disease and an increased risk of stroke, to numerous cancers and a compromised immune system – there are many ways in which smoking can seriously affect the health of those who do it and also those who are exposed to second hand smoke regularly.

Here we take a look at the dangers associated with smoking and how quitting can greatly reduce the risk of developing many serious diseases.

Dangerous Chemicals in Tobacco Smoke

According to the CDC, more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease that is directly attributable to smoking. Tobacco contains thousands of chemicals, at least 70 of which are extremely harmful to the body including benzene, formaldehyde and arsenic.

It doesn’t matter whether you chew tobacco, smoke cigarettes, a pipe or love the odd cigar. All of these forms of tobacco consumption can present significant health risks and contain extremely dangerous chemicals.

Woman coughing when smoking

The Detrimental Health Effects of Smoking

Cigarette smoking accounts for 1 in 5 deaths in the USA today. Smoke can damage the airways and air sacs in the lung, it causes high blood pressure and reduces the amount of oxygen getting to the body.

It can damage our ability to taste and smell and causes irritation in the throat and digestive tract. Long-term smoking is likely to increase the signs of ageing and make it more likely an individual will suffer from a condition such as gum disease.

The long-term health impact of smoking can have far more serious effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous system. The risk of developing a disease such as type 2 diabetes, for instance, is increased by some 30-40% in those who smoke compared with those that don’t.

Smoking and Respiratory Disease

One of the biggest effects of smoking is on the lungs where it can quickly damage the air sacs.

Smoking causes as much as 90% of all lung cancers and smokers are more than 12 times more likely to die from a condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Other health problems such as emphysema and bronchitis are also much more likely to develop if someone smokes.

Close up of smoker's hand

Central Nervous System

Nicotine is a mood-altering chemical in tobacco and it can have a significant effect on the brain and the central nervous system. 

The reason why smoking is so addictive is that constant doses of nicotine cause cravings and physical withdrawal which in turn lead to huge withdrawal symptoms making it difficult to quit.

Integumentary System

Our skin, hair and nails all absorb the chemicals from smoking and this can have a detrimental effect in different ways.

Skin can often age prematurely and hair may thin leading balding. Nails may become brittle and discolored and smokers are generally more susceptible to problems such as fungal infections.

 

Digestive System

Smokers are at an increased risk of mouth and throat cancer and they tend to suffer from more minor issues such as acid reflux or heartburn compared to non-smokers.

There is also evidence to suggest that smoking increases the likelihood of developing colon and rectal cancers and raises the potential for other health problems such as peptic ulcers.

Sexuality and Reproductive System

Nicotine in the bloodstream can hurt sexual performance in men and may lower hormone levels in both men and women.

Research suggests that smoking can affect sperm count in men and reduce fertility in women. It can also have an impact on a developing baby, making early delivery more likely and increasing the risk ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome.

Weakened Immune System

Our immune system is essential in helping to fight off disease and stay healthy. Smoking can have various effects on the body, including increased inflammation and reducing our immune response so that we are more susceptible to viruses and bacteria.

Smokers tend to be less healthy than non-smokers, they often drink more, don’t exercise as much or eat a healthy diet which can further compromise the immune system.

Benefits of Quitting

Someone who stops smoking improves their chances of a healthier life the longer they stay free of tobacco.

According to the CDC, the risk of dying from a stroke reduces to the level of someone who has never smoked within 5 to 15 years of quitting. Even a year after quitting smoking the risk of heart disease drops considerably.

The risk of throat and mouth cancers can halve within five years and ten years after quitting, the risk of developing lung cancer can also decrease by 50%.

Smoking affects almost every part of the body and long-term use can greatly increase the risk of developing a life-threatening condition such as cancer or coronary heart disease. The good news is that quitting can also start to reduce these damaging effects and lead to a healthier and longer life.