Smoking has a huge effect on the body. In fact, it is the leading cause of preventable deaths in England according to the NHS, with over 75,000 deaths blamed for it each year. Cancer Research UK says it’s the biggest preventable cause of cancer, and the HSC Public Health Agency states that one in two smokers will die of a smoking-related disease.
So what damage does smoking cause to your body? We take a more detailed look at the negative effects smoking has on your health.
Smoking increases the thickness of the blood. This in turn increases your heart’s rate and blood pressure, making your heart work harder to pump blood around your body.
The chemicals present in cigarettes can also raise cholesterol levels, resulting in narrowing and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). This makes it harder for oxygen to reach your vital organs.
These things combined can lead to clots, heart attacks, and strokes.
The lungs have an incredibly hard time if you’re a smoker. Not only does smoking cause coughing, wheezing, and struggling to breathe, but it can also cause emphysema, pneumonia, and lung cancer – 84% of lung cancer deaths are due to smoking.
Smokers will suffer with increased breathlessness during normal activities like running or walking. Asthma sufferers will find their symptoms exacerbated – even breathing in second-hand smoke. Smokers will also be at higher risk of contracting chest infections.
83% of deaths due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are also caused by smoking.
Inhaling second hand smoke, by spending time around other smokers, can increase the risk of asthma attacks.
Mouth & Throat
The tar and nicotine in cigarette smoke can stain your teeth, turning them from a healthy and gleaming white to yellow in just a few years.
The effect smoking has on the red blood cells' ability to carry oxygen contributes to gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Aside from losing your smile, smoking increases your risk of losing your voice by damaging your larynx. Over time, the damage can develop into chronic laryngitis.
Smoking also massively increases your risk of mouth cancers that affect the tongue, lips, throat, oesophagus and larynx – 93% of deaths from cancer around the throat are caused by smoking.
Smoking doubles your risk of having a stroke. Brain aneurysms caused by bulging blood vessels can cause severe brain damage or death.
Nicotine binds to receptors in the brain, triggering the release of a chemical called dopamine. This chemical, which is often triggered as a reward within the central nervous system, plays a key role in addiction to nicotine.
As you continue to smoke, your brain generates more receptors which require nicotine to bind to in order to achieve the same level of pleasure as before. This makes it harder to quit in the long run.
Moreover, if you typically smoke while drinking (commonly referred to as social smoking) or after a meal, your brain will anticipate the nicotine after these events, even after you have quit smoking.
Cravings and withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety and depressive mood, often subside during your smoking cessation journey. In addition, the number of nicotine receptors in the brain will diminish to the levels of a non-smoker, making it easier to manage cravings.
Smoking can double the risk of a heart attack and make you twice as likely to die of coronary heart disease. It also leaves you susceptible to peripheral vascular disease (PVD), which affects blood flow to the limbs, and cerebrovascular disease, which affects blood flow to the brain. This is because smoking causes huge amounts of damage to your arteries and blood circulation.
A condition called atherosclerosis can develop, in which the arteries become narrowed by a build up of a fatty, waxy substance called atheroma. This restricts blood flow which, in turn, affects the transport of oxygen around the body.
Carbon Monoxide from cigarettes also makes your heart beat faster, causing it to strain. This poisonous gas binds to red blood cells and prevents the circumvention of oxygen around the body. Chain smoking increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, nausea and sickness.
Smoking ages the skin more so than any other factor. This is because it prevents oxygen from getting to the skin. Skin wrinkles faster, appears dull and grey, and can develop cellulite (“orange peel skin”).
Contrary to popular believe, smoking does not cause adult acne. Whilst there has been a cross-sectional study which found a correlation between smoking and acne, the researchers could not conclude whether smoking causes acne.
Cigarette smoke damages the collagen and elastin, which keep the skin supple and soft. As a result, sagging, especially around the breasts, eyes and underarms, can occur.
Skin around the lips can become wrinkled, due to persistent pursing of the lips when smoking. These wrinkles are sometimes referred to as "smoker's lines".
Staining of the fingers, caused by the nicotine in the cigarettes, is common in smokers. But this stain will fade when you quit smoking.
Smoking weakens the bones and makes you more susceptible to fractures. You will be more at risk of osteoporosis than a non-smoker.
Smoking impedes your bodies ability to build bones and increases the amount of cortisol in your body, which deteriorates bone matter, making them weaker.
Time to Quit
Smoking affects nearly every part of your body negatively and can cause ongoing complications that last a lifetime. Not only will your health undoubtedly suffer, but your looks and overall well-being will be impacted too.
With so many smoking cessation options available today, there's never been a better time to quit.