Effects of Smoking

The habit of smoking is known to cause numerous health issues in our body. In many cases, smoking can even lead to the development of diseases that can cause death. Cigarettes contain more than 4000 harmful chemicals such as carbon monoxide, tar, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, metals and radioactive compounds. These chemicals can change the cellular structure of the internal organs of the human body which can lead to serious implications. Smoking can block the airways of the smoker’s lungs, increase the heart rate and elevate the blood pressure of the smoker as well as deprive the smoker of much-important oxygen. Apart from these dangerous short term effects, smoking also leads to several other respiratory problems such emphysema and lung cancer. Over time, smoking also weakens the body’s immune system. This article deals with the various ill effects of smoking and discusses the impact cigarettes can have on human health.

Harmful Effects of Smoking

The habit of smoking causes problems for all parts of the human body. The various health effects of smoking are discussed below in details.

Dangers of smoking on the respiratory system

Smoking causes a number of long term respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia, asthma and lung cancer.


Bronchitis goes hand in hand with smoking. When an individual smokes, the chemicals present in the tobacco causes irritation of the lining of bronchial tubes. This leads to inflammation of bronchial tubes which result in sore throats, mucous, cough and uncomfortable sensations in the chest. The condition worsens with continued smoking. If the symptoms persist for a long time, it can give rise to chronic or acute bronchitis which are conditions most commonly linked with regular smokers. Often bronchitis is believed to be a precursor for more serious illnesses if the individual keeps on with his or her habit of smoking. The thickening of the bronchial lining by deposits of mucus as well as the scarring of bronchial tubes causes breathing difficulties. Bronchitis along with emphysema falls under the category of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. In fact, smoking is held to be responsible for almost 90% of COPD cases, as illustrated by National Women’s Health Information Center or NWHIC.


Emphysema is a form of COPD which is accompanied by the over-inflation of the air-sacs or the alveoli. This causes breathing difficulties as such over-inflations limits the airflow from lungs. The symptoms of emphysema grow worse over time which eventually weakens the lung tissues. The air sacs that deliver air into the bloodstream are damaged over time, which leads to symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing. Detecting the symptoms of emphysema during the earlier stages is difficult. Hence diagnosing an individual with emphysema is often not possible until the more advanced symptoms start to develop.


The American Cancer Society considers smoking to be one of the primary causes behind pneumonia. It is another illness that belongs to the category of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases or COPD. Smoking can also worsen the various preexisting symptoms of pneumonia and other asthmatic conditions. People who frequently suffer from pneumonia might even develop bronchitis or emphysema over time.


Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the lung airways which is characterized by variable as well as recurring symptoms, bronchial spasm and reversible airflow obstruction. The walls of the bronchia are covered with muscle bands which are contracted by asthma. This narrows the conducts by which breathing takes place, resulting in shortness of breath. It also causes other breathing and respiration problems, such as rattling. Unlike in bronchitis or emphysema, troubled breathing in asthma occurs periodically with alternating periods of normal breathing.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is considered to be the most significant of all the lung diseases that are caused by smoking. Almost 87% of all lung cancer cases are actually caused by smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that smoking causes 90% of all lung cancer-related deaths in men and 80% of all lung cancer-related deaths in women. This deadly disease occurs when abnormal cells within lungs start dividing and become cancerous. This disease spreads very quickly to other parts of a patient’s body. Treatment is usually difficult if the disease is not diagnosed earlier. The ultimate way to get rid of this disease is to quit smoking completely.

Cardiovascular Diseases

Cardiovascular diseases are among the most fatal health conditions caused by smoking. The arteries can harden as a result of years of smoking. Cholesterol and various other fats are accumulated in the arteries, thereby leaving them constricted, blocked and rigid. Blood clots are formed when the arteries are narrowed due to a process known as atherosclerosis.

Different types of cardiovascular diseases can occur depending on the blood vessels that are involved. Most cardiovascular diseases occur in individuals who are in the habit of smoking for a long time.

Coronary thrombosis

Coronary thrombosis is a process in which a blood clot is formed in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. This might lead to a fatal heart attack. Nearly 30% of all coronary thrombosis cases are caused by smoking.

Cerebral thrombosis

The blood vessels that lead to the brain gets blocked which can cause a collapse, paralysis or a stroke. Hindrance of blood supply to the brain is also an important reason behind dementia.

If the arteries connected to the kidney are affected, it may lead to kidney failure or high blood pressure.

The other cardiovascular health conditions that are caused by smoking include peripheral vascular diseases and coronary heart diseases. Peripheral vascular diseases occur when the arteries to the legs are blocked. This may lead to serious health issues like gangrene and an eventual amputation of the leg.

The tobacco smoke causes immediate reactions to one’s heart and blood vessels. As soon as an individual takes a puff, the heart rate increases nearly by 30% within first 10 minutes of smoking. The carbon monoxide content present in tobacco smoke minimizes blood’s capacity to carry oxygen. A long time habit of smoking can eventually lead to a heart attack. It has also been shown in some studies that tobacco smoke hampers smooth cell division of cardiac muscles which can eventually change the heart’s shape.

Effects of Smoking during Pregnancy

If a woman smokes while she is pregnant, it can have a devastating effect on the future health of both the mother and her child. Ideally a woman should never smoke, whether it is before, during or after pregnancy. However even in cases where it is not possible to do so, a woman should quit smoking as soon as she learns of her pregnancy. A pregnant woman who smokes frequently highly runs the risk of suffering a miscarriage or having a stillborn baby. Other serious complications such as bleeding, premature birth, ectopic pregnancy or detachment of placenta can also occur as a direct result of smoking while one is pregnant. A woman can give birth to a child having low birth weight or other congenital defects. Even secondhand smoke can cause serious birth defects in an infant.

Smoking and Cancer

Cancer is among the most notable long term health effects of smoking. People who have been smoking for a long time have a high risk to suffer from cancer compared to nonsmoking individuals. The carcinogens contained in the tobacco smoke such as tar can actually cause cancer of mouth, throat, gullet and lungs. Most of all lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. Continual smoking can also lead to various other types of cancer, such as bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophagus cancer as well as develop cancerous growths in kidneys. In women, regular smoking can lead to cervical cancer.

Other effects of smoking on the body

Smoking is also known to cause numerous other health problems. The smoke that emanates from the cigarettes includes a number of harmful chemicals, such as nicotine, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. Cigarettes also contain 43 known carcinogens which can damage the blood vessels linings and also significantly affects the amount of fats in the bloodstream. Regular smoking increases the possibilities of atheroma, which is the principal factor responsible for strokes, aneurysms and heart diseases.

Continual smoking over a long period of time can deteriorate a person’s overall oral health. The gums and teeth get stained. Smoking also brings a slight acidic taste to one’s mouth. Other oral and dental problems include swollen gums, loose teeth, oral ulcers and bad breath.

Smoking leads to sexual problems in both men and women. It can give rise to serious issues relating to fertility as well as overall sexual performance.

Smoking increases a person’s blood pressure which can eventually cause strokes and heart attacks.

If an individual is suffering from asthma, smoking can effectively worsen the already present asthmatic symptoms.

Smoking is a major cause of early aging. The chemicals present in the cigarette smoke hinder smooth fluent blood circulation through the body and it has its effects on one’s skin. The supply of Vitamin A on one’s skin is reduced which causes the skin to be wrinkled with a pale coloration.

Heavy smoking over a long period of time can result in macular degeneration which gradually leads to loss of eyesight. Individuals who smoke heavily also have a high probability to get cataracts. Other bad effects of smoking include chest infections, diabetic retinopathy, tuberculosis, multiple sclerosis as well as Crohn’s disease.

Apart from firsthand smoke, secondhand smoke can also cause various negative health effects. In fact, on many occasions secondhand smoke even causes more damage than that caused by firsthand smoke. Smoking at close vicinity of newborn babies may make them vulnerable to asthma as well as infections of ear, nose and chest. It also increases the possibility of infant death syndrome.

Numerous other health problems are also caused by smoking. These include the following:

  • Getting cold turkey as one tries to quit smoking
  • Staining and smelling of hair
  • Alteration in the chemistry of the brain
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Graves Disease
  • Stinging and watering of eyes
  • Thyroid Disease
  • Aging prematurely
  • Gingivitis of gums
  • Teeth plaque
  • Cancers of the lips, mouth, larynx, throat and esophagus
  • Bad breath
  • Sore throat
  • Reduced sensations of taste while eating
  • Flu
  • Poor circulation
  • Duodenal ulcers
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Kidney cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Hip fractures
  • Spinal fractures
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Period pains as well as earlier menopause in many women
  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Gangrene
  • Leukemia
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Abruptio placentae
  • Placenta previa
  • Congenital limb reduction as seen in newborns

Smoking is known to cause numerous harmful effects to both men and women. There are also various social effects of smoking which can eventually tarnish an individual’s reputation within social circles. Giving up smoking is the ideal way to protect one’s own health as well as the health of the near and dear ones from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.

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  • Second Hand Smoke Facts and Effects
  • Effects of Smoking on Teeth
  • Facial Effects of Smoking
  • Effects of Cigarette Smoking – Nicotine
  • Smoking during Pregnancy
  •  Filed under:   Effects of Smoking

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