Smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products has harmful effects on almost all parts of the human body. Those who inhale the smoke emitted from an active smoker, children living in the vicinity of a chronic smoker, are also at the risk of developing dangerous diseases due to the toxins present in cigarette smoke.
It is responsible for lung cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases.
Most of the smokers die from these respiratory diseases or ischaemic heart diseases.
In this article, we will be learning the various harmful effects of smoking on the human body.
Everyone knows that smoking affects our lungs and that lung cancers are very common among smokers. But, smoking can produce a wide range of diseases in the lungs apart from cancers.
Smoking tampers with the normal functions of the lungs which primarily involves the oxygenation of blood.
Bronchitis due to inflammations in the small airways in the lungs can eventually lead to obstructive changes in the airways resulting in a condition known as “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease” (COPD). Patients suffering from COPD usually have wheezing, difficulty in breathing, and are more prone to lung infections. Prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke can produce scar tissue formation in the “sponge” like lungs and hinder it’s normal functions.
Smoking also worsens the asthma and can result in a condition known as “emphysema”. Emphysema results due to the destruction of the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs.
The “cilia” which are the minute hair like structures lining the respiratory tract are destroyed by the harmful chemicals present in tobacco. The cilia are mainly responsible for sweeping out the dust particles, microbes, mucus and other secretions from the respiratory tract. Destruction of the cilia makes the lungs more vulnerable to infections like cold, flu etc.
There are more than 60 known cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens) present in tobacco. There are many types of cancers that can develop as a result of smoking at various sites of our body.
An easy way to remember the various sites for cancers to develop in a smoker is to imagine the course of smoke from it’s entry point to it’s exit from the body.
Oral cancers like cancers of the mouth, tongue are well-known to develop in smokers.
Cancers of the upper respiratory tract like the larynx, nasopharynx,
Lower respiratory tract is also affected by smoking and can result in cancers of bronchi, bronchioles etc.
Studies have shown that 9 out of 10 lung cancers in this world are due to smoking. Second hand smoking can also result in lung cancers.
Other parts of the body where cancers can develop as a result of smoking are pancreas, stomach, oesophagus, bladder, cervix and kidney. Some varieties of blood cancers (leukemia) are also associated with smoking.
Heart and Blood Vessels
I have already written about the dangers of “cardiovascular diseases” and now would be the right time to read it once again.
Smoking is associated with high blood pressure and thus the chances of developing heart diseases are also high.
If you are already a heart disease patient, it would be better to quit smoking right away because the chances of mortality increases with smoking in such patients.
Nitrous oxide in tobacco smoke produces constriction of the blood vessels. When fats gets deposited in such constricted blood vessels, the blood flow to various organs including heart decreases and can result in heart attacks.
The good news is that there the chances of developing heart attacks can be reduced by 50% in the first year after quitting the killer habit.
Constriction of the major blood vessels to the lower limb can result in “Burger’s Disease” which often affects young males. Severe cases would require amputation of the limbs!
Nicotine present in the tobacco is responsible for producing the addiction to cigarettes. Brain develops extra nicotine receptors to accommodate the nicotine from tobacco. When a person stops smoking the quantity of nicotine in his body from tobacco decreases. But, the brain which is already used to the extra nicotine doses will make the person anxious , irritable, and crave for more nicotine by developing the unbeatable urge to smoke again.Thus, even if the person knows that cigarette smoking is harmful, the role of addiction in maintaining the smoking habit is important.
Blockage of blood flow to the brain as a result of narrowing of the blood vessels can result in stroke.
I have already mentioned in an article that smoking is an important risk factor for developing high blood pressure.
Smoking is also associated with Type 2 Diabetes. In a diabetic person, smoking speeds up the progress of developing complications like kidney diseases, eye diseases etc.
Studies have also shown that smoking is associated with increased levels of cholesterol in the blood, a stepping ground for the development of cardiovascular diseases.
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Smoking decreases the libido in men as well as women.
Men who smoke find it difficult to get an erection (erectile dysfunction) and thus the chances of becoming impotent.
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Women who smoke are at greater risk of becoming infertile.
Women who smoke when they are pregnant are exposing the foetus to dangerous chemicals. Miscarriages, preterm deliveries, low birth weight are some of the major complications which can arise in these situations.
Babies born to women who smoked when they were pregnant are at higher risk of birth defects, low birth weight, are more prone to asthma, other respiratory infections and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Eyes : Smoking can affect your eyesight by worsening or triggerring dangerous eye conditions like macular degeneration, tobacco amblyopia, cataract etc.
Tongue : Most of the patients who complains of decreased taste sensation while eating have a positive history of chronic smoking.
Ears : Smoking decreases the hearing capacity of individuals by acting on the blood supply to the cochlea the spiral cavity of the inner ear containing the organ of Corti, which produces nerve impulses in response to sound vibrations)
Nose : Smoking destroys the “olfactory” epithelium and thus decrease the ability to smell properly. This is another reason why smokers find food less appetising.
In short, smoking affects almost all the sensory organs in our body.
It is easy to find out whether the person sitting near you is a smoker or not. The chemicals in the cigarette produces certain changes in our body that can be used to identify the liars!
Yellowish discolouration of the teeth, fingers, fingernails are very common among smokers. By causing wrinkling of the skin, smoking has an effect on premature ageing.
Yellowish discolouration of the fingers where the smokers hold the cigarettes are very evident.
Inflammations of the gums (gingivitis) and severe infections of the gums leading to decreased support to the teeth (periodontitis), tooth decay are some of the other oral manifestations of smoking.
The main purpose of this article is to educate the common man about the harmful effects of smoking on our health. The tobacco industry is trying very hard to promote smoking and maintain the habit throughout the world. Their budget to promote smoking far exceeds the healthcare providers budget to spread awareness among the people about the dangers of smoking.
If you think that you are ready to take the challenge and want to test your body’s ability to resist the harmful effects of smoking, so be it.
Remember one thing, there is no safe way to smoke. It doesn’t matter what type of tobacco product you are using, be it cigarettes, cigars, pipe or hookah. The harmful effects described in this article is not just confined to cigarettes!
The ball is in your court now. If you have made the right decision to quit smoking today, I have written another article on the tips to quit smoking which will help you immensely.