The Health Risks of Smoking

Do you have any idea which smoking-related disease is the number one cause of death among smokers? If you’re thinking it’s lung cancer or COPD/emphysema, you’re wrong. While both of these smoking-related diseases do claim a lot of lives, it is heart disease that that holds the top slot in the list of diseases that kill smokers.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States today, and the leading cause of death among smokers. And, on a global level, researchers report that there were 1,690,000 premature deaths from cardiovascular disease among smokers in the year 2000. In contrast, there were approximately 850,000 lung cancer deaths during the same year, and 118,000 COPD deaths from smoking in 2001, worldwide.

Smoking is hard on the heart, but the fact is, tobacco use plays a role in a multitude of diseases that ultimately lead to disability and/or death. Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds; 200 of which are known to be poisonous, and upwards of 60 have been identified as carcinogens. Viewed in that light, it’s no wonder that the effects of smoking are so widespread and destructive.

Let’s take a look at how cigarette smoke affects our bodies, from head to toe. You may be surprised at some of the ways smoking has a negative impact on our health.

Hair:

  • Smell and staining

Brain and Mental Effects:

  • Stroke
  • Addiction/nicotine withdrawal
  • Altered brain chemistry
  • Anxiety about harm caused by smoking

Eyes:

  • Eyes that sting, water and blink more
  • Macular degeneration
  • Cataracts

Nose:

  • Less sense of smell

Thyroid

  • Graves Disease
  • Thyroid Disease

Skin:

  • Wrinkles
  • Premature aging

Teeth:

  • Discoloration and stains
  • Plaque
  • Loose teeth
  • Gum disease (gingivitis)

Mouth and Throat:

  • Cancers of the lips, mouth, throat and larynx
  • Cancer of the esophagus
  • Sore throat
  • Reduced sense of taste
  • Breath smells of smoke

Hands:

  • Poor circulation(cold fingers)
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Tar stained fingers

Respiration and Lungs:

  • Lung Cancer
  • COPD (includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema)
  • Cough and sputum
  • Shortness of breath
  • Colds and flu
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma
  • Complicates Tuberculosis

Heart:

  • Harms, blocks and weakens arteries of the heart
  • Heart attack

Liver:

  • Cancer

Abdomen:

  • Stomach and duodenal ulcers
  • Cancer of stomach, pancreas and colon
  • Aortic aneurysm

Kidneys and bladder:

  • Kidney cancer
  • Bladder cancer

Bones:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Spine and hip fractures

Spine:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease

Male reproduction:

  • Sperm: deformity, loss of motility, reduced number
  • Infertility
  • Impotence

Female reproduction:

  • Period pains
  • Earlier menopause
  • Cancer of cervix
  • Infertility and delay in conception

Blood:

  • Leukemia

Legs and Feet:

  • Gangrene
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Beurger Disease

Immune System:

  • Weakened immune system

The effects of smoking hold additional risks for women. Those who smoke throughout their pregnancies increase the risk of:

  • Spontaneous abortion/miscarriage
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Abruptio placentae
  • Placenta previa
  • Premature rupture of the membranes
  • Premature birth

Risks to the fetus include:

  • Smaller infant(for gestational age)
  • Stillborn infant
  • Birth defects, e.g. congenital limb reduction
  • Increased nicotine receptors in baby’s brain
  • Increased likelihood of child smoking as a teenager
  • Possible predisposition to adult anxiety disorders

As long as this list of diseases known to be associated with smoking is, it is incomplete. We don’t yet fully understand all of the dangers that cigarette smoke presents, but research continues, bringing us new discoveries seemingly by the day.

One thing is certain: Cigarettes snuff out life at an alarming rate. Statistics tell us that upwards of half of long-term smokers will die a smoking-related death. And globally, that presently translates to nearly 5 million deaths a year. Put another way, someone loses their life to smoking every 8 seconds somewhere in the world.

If you currently smoke, use this information to help you see your smoking habit for what it is – a deadly addiction that you can live without. The tools here at About.com Smoking Cessation are designed to help you learn what nicotine addiction involves and what it takes to quit smoking.

Also, stop in and visit our support forum here at About.com Smoking Cessation. This very active community of people quitting tobacco has new members joining daily, and the support is some of the best I’ve seen anywhere online, or in real life, for that matter.

Browse through and read messages as a guest, or register (free) to post comments of your own.

As humans, we are incredibly resilient. While not all smoking damage is reversible, so much can be healed, even after years of smoking.

Don’t ever think it’s too late for you to quit smoking, and please…don’t waste any more of your life on cigarettes. Smoking offers you absolutely nothing of value.

Take back your life. You deserve the freedom and long-lasting benefits that smoking cessation brings.

First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. Health Service Food and Human Resources: Duty free cigarette online

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