Smoking: Effects On Your Body

Smoking: Effects On Your Body


Cigarette smoking causes a variety of life-threatening diseases, including lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. An estimated 430,000 deaths each year are directly caused by cigarette smoking. Smoking is responsible for changes in all parts of the body, including the digestive system. This fact can have serious consequences because it is the digestive system that converts foods into the nutrients the body needs to live.

Along with nicotine, smokers inhale about 7,000 other chemicals in cigarette smoke. Many of these chemicals come from burning tobacco leaf. Some of these compounds are chemically active and trigger profound and damaging changes in the body.

Tobacco smoke contains over 60 known cancer-causing chemicals. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, causing many diseases and reducing health in general.

Current estimates indicate that about one-third of all adults smoke. And, while adult men seem to be smoking less, women and teenagers of both sexes seem to be smoking more.

Cigarette smoke contains


Nicotine


Nicotine is a drug that stimulates the brain. If you are a regular smoker, when the blood level of nicotine falls, you usually develop withdrawal symptoms, such as craving, anxiety, restlessness, headaches, irritability, hunger, difficulty with concentration, or just feeling awful. These symptoms are relieved by the next cigarette.

So, most smokers need to smoke regularly to feel normal, and to prevent nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Tar which contains many chemicals


These deposit in the lungs and can get into the blood vessels and be carried to other parts of the body. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, including over 50 known carcinogens (causes of cancer) and other poisons.

Carbon monoxide


This chemical affects the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. In particular, in pregnant women who smoke, this causes a reduced amount of oxygen to get to the growing baby. This is thought to be the most important cause for the bad effects of smoking on the growing baby.

Hydrogen cyanide


The lungs contain tiny hairs (cilia) that help to clean the lungs by moving foreign substances out. Hydrogen cyanide stops this lung clearance system from working properly, which means the poisonous chemicals in tobacco smoke can build up inside the lungs. Other chemicals in smoke that damage the lungs include hydrocarbons, nitrous oxides, organic acids, phenols and oxidising agents.

Free radicals


These highly reactive chemicals can damage the heart muscles and blood vessels. They react with cholesterol, leading to the build-up of fatty material on artery walls. Their actions lead to heart disease, stroke and blood vessel disease.

Metals


Tobacco smoke contains dangerous metals including arsenic, cadmium and lead. Several of these metals are carcinogenic.

Radioactive compounds


Tobacco smoke contains radioactive compounds that are known to be carcinogenic.

Which diseases are caused or made worse by smoking?



More than 8 in 10 cases are directly related to smoking.


More than 8 in 10 of these deaths are directly linked to smoking. People who die of COPD are usually quite unwell for several years before they die.


Other cancers - of the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, gullet (oesophagus), pancreas, bladder, cervix, blood (leukaemia), and kidney are all more common in smokers.

Circulation. The chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of the blood vessels and affect the level of lipids (fats) in the bloodstream. This increases the risk of atheroma forming (sometimes called hardening of the arteries). Atheroma is the main cause of heart disease, strokes, peripheral vascular disease (poor circulation of the legs), and aneurysms (swollen arteries which can burst causing internal bleeding). All of these atheroma-related diseases are more common in smokers.

Sexual problems. Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to become impotent or have difficulty in maintaining an erection in middle life. This is thought to be due to smoking-related damage of the the blood vessels to the penis.

Rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking is known to be a risk factor for developing rheumatoid arthritis. One research study estimated that smoking is responsible for about 1 in 5 cases of rheumatoid arthritis.

Ageing. Smokers tend to develop more lines on their face at an earlier age than non-smokers. This often makes smokers look older than they really are.

Fertility is reduced in smokers (both male and female).

Menopause. On average, women who smoke have a menopause nearly two years earlier than non-smokers.
Other conditions where smoking often causes worse symptoms include: asthma, colds, flu, chest infections, tuberculosis, chronic rhinitis, diabetic retinopathy, hyperthyroidism, multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis, and Crohn's disease.

Smoking increases the risk of developing various other conditions including: dementia, optic neuropathy, cataracts, macular degeneration, pulmonary fibrosis, psoriasis, gum disease, tooth loss, osteoporosis and Raynaud's phenomenon.

Effects of tobacco smoking on the body


Effects of smoking on the respiratory system


The effects of tobacco smoke on the respiratory system include:
  • Irritation of the trachea (windpipe) and larynx (voice box)
  • Reduced lung function and breathlessness due to swelling and narrowing of the lung airways and excess mucus in the lung passages
  • Impairment of the lungs’ clearance system, leading to the build-up of poisonous substances, which results in lung irritation and damage
  • Increased risk of lung infection and symptoms such as coughing and wheezing
  • Permanent damage to the air sacs of the lungs.

Effects of smoking on the immune system

The effects of tobacco smoke on the immune system include:
  • Greater susceptibility to infections such as pneumonia and influenza
  • More severe and longer-lasting illnesses
  • Lower levels of protective antioxidants (such as vitamin C), in the blood.

Effects of smoking on the circulatory system


The effects of tobacco smoke on the circulatory system include:
  • Raised blood pressure and heart rate
  • Constriction (tightening) of blood vessels in the skin, resulting in a drop in skin temperature
  • Less oxygen carried by the blood
  • ‘Stickier’ blood, which is more prone to clotting
  • Damage to the lining of the arteries, which is thought to be a contributing factor to atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty deposits on the artery walls)
  • Reduced blood flow to extremities (fingers and toes)
  • Increased risk of stroke and heart attack due to blockages of the blood supply.

Other effects of smoking on the body


Other effects of tobacco smoke on the body include:
  • Irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines
  • Increased risk of painful ulcers along the digestive tract
  • Reduced ability to smell and taste
  • Premature wrinkling of the skin
  • Higher risk of blindness
  • Gum disease (periodontitis).

Effects of smoking on the sexual organs


The effects of tobacco smoke on the male body include:
  • Lower sperm count
  • Higher percentage of deformed sperm
  • Genetic damage to sperm
  • Impotence, which may be due to the effects of smoking on blood flow and damage to the blood vessels of the penis.

The effects of tobacco smoke on the female body include:

  • Reduced fertility
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities or absence of menstruation
  • Menopause reached one or two years earlier
  • Increased risk of cancer of the cervix
  • Greatly increased risk of stroke and heart attack if the smoker is aged over 35 years and taking the oral contraceptive pill.

Effects of smoking on the musculoskeletal system


The effects of tobacco smoke on the musculoskeletal system include:
  • Tightening of certain muscles
  • Reduced bone density.

How does smoking affect other people?


Effects of smoking on Children


Children and babies who live in a home where there is a smoker:

  • Are more prone to asthma and ear, nose and chest infections. Children under five years old are admitted to hospital each year due to illnesses caused by their parents' smoking.
  • Have an increased risk of dying from cot death (sudden infant death syndrome).
  • Are more likely than average to become smokers themselves when older.
  • On average, do less well at reading and reasoning skills compared with children in smoke-free homes, even at low levels of smoke exposure.
  • Are at increased risk of developing COPD and cancer as adults.

Passive smoking of adults


You have an increased risk of lung cancer and heart disease if you are exposed to other people smoking for long periods of time. Tobacco smoke is also an irritant, and can make asthma and other conditions worse.