Cigarettes’ harmful claim to fame isn’t limited to your lungs, heart, or blood vessels. Did you know that smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the US? Over 440,000 deaths per year are associated with smoking. Smoking not only cuts lives short, but it greatly decreases quality of life.
How else does smoking hurt your body? Let's take a look, so you will have a better idea.
Smoking is a leading cause of many types of cancers. Exposure to the harsh chemicals in tobacco affect the all of the body's cells.
Most cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, including cyanide and formaldehyde. Nearly 70 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.
The list of smoking-related cancers includes:
By reducing blood supply, smoking weakens both muscles and bones. It also slows the production of bone-forming cells and keeps your body from absorbing calcium. Here are some of the effects:
- Increased risk for bone fractures, which also take longer to heal
- Higher complication rate after surgeries
Increased risk of overuse injuries, such as
bursitis, and a greater chance of
low back pain
rheumatoid arthritis, a progressive disease that causes joint destruction
Smoking hurts the digestive system, which means the body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs. Some digestive conditions include:
- Heartburn—Injury to the esophagus allows for reflux of stomach acids back into the esophagus, also increasing the risk of esophageal cancer.
- Peptic ulcers—Increased acidity increases the risk for an infection that leads to open sores in the stomach or small intestine, causing pain and discomfort.
- Crohn’s disease—Leads to inflammation in the lining of the intestines, causing abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss.
- Altered liver function—Changes the way the liver handles drugs and alcohol, which can lead to liver disease.
Smokers notice the change in their brains almost the minute they light up. Smoking quickly changes brain chemistry, affecting mood and often leading to addiction. Brain chemistry changes, as well as decreased blood flow, increase the risk for:
Smokers are at increased risk of developing the most common type of
Here are a few of smoking’s
- Reduced sense of smell and taste
- Premature skin aging from reduced blood flow and vitamins
- Increased risk for gum disease
Increased risk for cloudy lens in the eye, called cataract, a leading cause of blindness
Increased risk for
infertility, and problems during pregnancy and delivery
In babies of smoking mothers—increased risk for low birth weight, asthma and reduced lung function, and
sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
at an earlier age; increased number of menopausal symptoms
The benefits of quitting begin almost immediately. Your heart rate and blood pressure drop within minutes. Your circulation and breathing improve within weeks. And, among other improvements, your risk of
much lower after five years of quitting. Although it’s best to quit when you’re younger, you can benefit at
Bjartveit K and Tverdal A. Health consequences of smoking 1–4 cigarettes per day.
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Health effects of cigarette smoking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking. Updated August 1, 2013. Accessed October 30, 2013.
Questions about smoking, tobacco, and health. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002974-pdf.pdf. Accessed October 30, 2013.
Smoking. American Diabetes Association website. Available at: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/prevention/checkup-america/smoking.html. Accessed October 30, 2013.
Smoking. American Lung Association website. Available at: http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/about-smoking/health-effects/smoking.html. Accessed October 30, 2013.
Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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