What Are the Harmful Effects of Smoking?

Tobacco smoke is harmful to your health. Cigarettes contain about 600 ingredients. When they burn, these ingredients generate over 7,000 chemicals. Many of these chemicals are poisonous and at least 69 are linked to cancer. The substances inhaled don’t just affect the lungs. They can affect the entire body. In this article, we will discuss the harmful effects of smoking.

Harmful Effects of Smoking

1. Lungs

CigaretteCigarettes are bad for the lungs because of the nicotine and other chemicals that they contain. One of the most harmful effects of smoking is that it increases the risk of developing lung cancer (25 times greater for men, 25.7 times greater for women). The CDC reports that approximately 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths are linked to smoking.

Also, smoking cigarettes presents a higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), causing 80% of COPD deaths. Cigarettes are linked to chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and can trigger an asthma attack.

2. Heart

Smoking cigarettes can damage the heart and blood vessels. The tar and chemicals in cigarettes can increase the risk of atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque in the blood vessels). This limits blood flow and can lead to potentially life-threatening blockages.

Furthermore, smoking increases the risk of peripheral artery disease (PAD), which occurs when arteries to the arms and legs narrow, restricting blood flow.

Having PAD increases the risk of:

• blood clots
• angina (chest pain)
• stroke
• heart attack

3. Brain

StrokeIf you smoke, you’re more likely to have a stroke than someone who does not. Smoking can increase the risk of having a stroke by 50%. One way that smoking can increase the risk of a stroke is by increasing the chances of developing a brain aneurysm, a bulge in a blood vessel caused by weakness in the blood vessel wall. This can burst or rupture, which can lead to a serious condition known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a type of stroke that can cause brain damage and death.

The good news is, within 2 years of stopping smoking, the risk of stroke is reduced to half that of a smoker and within 5 years, it will be the same as that of a non-smoker.

4. Mouth and throat

Smoking causes problems such as stained teeth, bad breath, gum disease, and damage to the sense of taste. But the more serious concern is an increased risk of cancer in the lips, tongue, throat, voice box, and esophagus. Approximately 93% of oropharyngeal cancers are caused by smoking.

Stopping the use of tobacco, even after many years of use, can greatly reduce the risk of developing head and neck cancer. Once you’ve been smoke-free for 20 years, the risk of head and neck cancer becomes the same as that of a non-smoker.

5. Fertility and reproduction

PregnancyIn males, the more and longer a person smokes, the higher the risk of erectile dysfunction. Also, smoking can affect sperm quality and therefore reduce fertility. In females, smoking can damage a female’s reproductive system. It can also make it more difficult for a woman to get pregnant. This is because tobacco and other chemicals in cigarettes can affect hormone levels. Smoking can affect pregnancy and a developing fetus in several ways, such as:

• increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy
• reducing a baby’s birth weight
• increasing the risk of pre-term delivery
• damaging a fetus’s lungs, brain, and central nervous system
• increasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
• contributing to congenital abnormalities

6. Stomach

Smokers have an increased risk of having stomach cancer and ulcers. Smoking may weaken the muscle that controls the lower end of the esophagus and allow stomach acid to travel back up, a condition known as acid reflux.

7. Vision

Smoking cigarettes can cause eye problems and increase the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Other vision problems associated with smoking include glaucoma, dry eyes, and diabetic retinopathy.

8. Skin

Smoking can reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches the skin. If you smoke, your skin will age more quickly and look gray and dull. Smoking causes premature skin aging by between 10 and 20 years, and makes it 3 times more likely you will get facial wrinkling, especially around the eyes and mouth. It can also result in a yellow-grey complexion and hollow cheeks, which can make you look haggard.

9. Type 2 diabetes

The CDC reports that those who smoke regularly have a 30 to 40% higher risk of having type 2 diabetes than those who do not. Moreover, smoking can make it more difficult for people with diabetes to manage their condition.

10. Cancer

Besides lung cancer, smoking cigarettes can also contribute to other forms of cancer. Cigarette smoking causes 20 to 30% of pancreatic cancers. People who smoke are 3 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than those who do not. Smoking cigarettes also doubles the risk of stomach cancer. Cigarettes can also increase the risk of:

• mouth cancer
• throat cancer
• esophageal cancer
• laryngeal cancer
• kidney cancer
• liver cancer
• colon cancer
• cervical cancer
• acute myeloid leukemia


The harmful effects of smoking cigarettes affect not only the people who smoke. Secondhand smoke can be detrimental to the health of coworkers, friends, and family members. That’s why you should quit smoking. If you’re finding it hard to stop the habit, ask your doctor for help. If you’re a non-smoker and thinking of giving it a try, don’t do it!

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