According to a fact sheet from the World Health Organization, tobacco causes about 7 million deaths each year with 10% of these occurring due to second-hand smoke. It goes further to claim that tobacco kills up to half of its users. With numbers like these, it is best to quit smoking not only for the good of your health but also for the health of those around you.
Harmful Effects of Smoking
Tobacco contains many harmful substances that have a negative effect on human health. The health risks of smoking include:
Numerous studies have affirmed the direct link between tobacco and cancer, not only of the lungs but also of the mouth, throat, liver, kidney, pancreas, cervix, bladder and colon. Lung cancer has the lowest survival chances among all these and is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths. Smoking causes cancer by damaging DNA and genes that protect against cancer. Smokers have an increased risk of lung cancer no matter what type of cigarette they smoke.
Smoking causes an immediate response in your heart and blood vessels by increasing your heart rate. Carbon monoxide reduces the oxygen-carrying ability of your blood. Nicotine damages the blood vessels by causing them to tighten over time. In addition to this, smoking raises blood pressure and increases the risk of blood clots. Research has shown that smoking affects cell division in the cardiac muscle and can change the heart’s shape. With these effects, smoking raises the chances of getting heart attacks, stroke, and heart disease.
In women, smoking harms the ovaries and interferes with estrogen production hence increasing the chances of infertility. Even when a woman who smokes opts for IVF, smoking will reduce the chances of success by up to 34%. And if she conceives, probability of miscarriage is 30%
In men, smoking increases the incidence of impotence by 85% and is a major cause of erectile dysfunction. This is because smoking causes narrowing of the arteries, which leads to reduces blood flow to the genitals. It also reduces sexual desire.
Infection in the Lungs
Smoking wrecks havoc in the lungs. It causes structural damage and affects the immune system. Therefore susceptibility to infectious diseases is increased. As a result, chronic lung conditions can occur. These include chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and destruction of air sacs in the lungs.
Nicotine is a mood altering drug that quickly reaches your brain and causes an energized feeling. This feeling does not last and you begin to crave more. Nicotine thus becomes addictive. Although smoking may make you feel less stressed, it actually increases stress levels as evidenced by changing mood patterns throughout the day. You feel normal when smoking and your mood worsens between smokes. The feeling of relaxation that comes when you smoke is actually a reversal of the tension caused by nicotine depletion. This leads to a dependency on nicotine to feel normal.
Effect on Pregnancy
Smoking is harmful to the health of the fetus. Toxins that get into your bloodstream – the source of nutrition for your baby – make their way to the womb. Thus, chances are increased of premature birth, babies born underweight or babies who die before birth. Tobacco use also increases the risk of miscarriage. Besides all these, studies have shown that the children born to smoking moms have increased behavioral problems by 50%.
Apart from oral cancer, which is the most serious effect on oral health, smoking causes a variety of oral diseases. Smoking will not only stain your teeth but it will also cause inflammation around them. It will significantly increase the chances of you losing your teeth. Further complications include white plaques on the mucous membrane of your oral cavity.
Decline in Cognitive Function
Smoking can create cognitive dysfunction. It can contribute to dementia. Your memory will also decline if you are a habitual heavy smoker. This is because smoking thins the outer layer of the brain which is responsible for memory and language.
Smoking will cause your skin to dry and discolor because it depletes the nutrients, especially vitamin C, which is responsible for nourishing your skin and repairing skin damage. Smoking will change the structure of your skin and increase the chances of skin cancer. It also causes premature aging of the skin and increases the occurrence of wrinkles.
With such a range of hazardous effects, it is clear why smoking is a leading cause of death. Unfortunately, smoking tobacco is so addictive that quitting is a Herculean task. Here are 12 proven ways to help you quit smoking. Also, the best alternative is to talk to your doctor for advice and for a recommendation of centers that are dedicated to helping smokers quit the habit. Making the decision to quit is the most important first step to a healthier life.