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Smoking Effects

It is common knowledge that smoking can lead to lung cancer, but you may not know it can also lead to many other cancers and diseases. One in five deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to cigarette smoking. Most of these deaths are from smoking-related cancers, though emphysema and cardiovascular disease are also contributors to the smoking death toll. Over 400 toxic substances are found in cigarettes as well as 4000 chemical compounds.

The most damaging of smoking effects are:
Tar which is a substance known to cause cancer.
Nicotine, which is not only addictive, can increase cholesterol levels in your body.
Carbon monoxide from smoking decreases oxygen levels in your system.
Particulates and substances in the gas in cigarette smoke can create chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

The amount of damage that can be caused by smoking is dependent upon how many cigarettes are smoked, did the cigarettes have a filter and how the tobacco was prepared. Research estimates that smoking reduces life expectancy by seven or eight years. It is estimated that 300 people die every day in the United States as a result of their having smoked, with many of those being comparatively younger smokers. (The total number of people less than 70 years of age who die from diseases related to smoking is greater than the amount of deaths caused by AIDS, auto accidents, drug addictions, and breast cancer.) That is a pretty sobering fact. The good news is people who have quit smoking can, on average, achieve a healthier old age than people who smoke.

There are several different major diseases caused by smoking. Cardiovascular disease is one of the main ones. Smoking speeds up the hardening and narrowing of the arteries. It not only can start at an earlier age, but there is a two to four times greater chance of blood clots. Around 30 percent of coronary thrombosis, a blood clot in the arteries to the heart, are caused by smoking. People who smoke have a tendency to develop coronary thrombosis ten years sooner than non-smokers, and smokers make up 9 out of 10 bypass procedures.

If it is the kidney's arteries that are affected, then high blood pressure and even kidney failure can result. If the blockage is in the vascular supply to the legs, then gangrene can be a worst case scenario. As you can see, circulatory problems are a major hazard of smoking. This effect on the circulatory system happens right away. Nicotine, a stimulant, raises blood pressure and heart beat, and causes the arteries to constrict. Along with the carbon monoxide from smoking, this increased blood pressure and constriction can cause atherosclerotic conditions within the artery walls, not only affecting the heart, but also the brain and extremities.

Another one of smoking effects is cancer. Smokers are much more likely to get cancer than non-smokers, especially mouth, throat, and lung cancer which affect non-smokers much less. Some estimates place the percentage of lung cancers due to smoking at 90 percent. One in five heavy smokers (15 or more cigarettes per day) will die of lung cancer and even one in ten moderate smokers. The smoking risk of contracting mouth cancer is four times higher than non-smokers. These cancers are most commonly found underneath or on the tongue and on the lips.

Other cancers with increased risk from smoking are bladder cancer,  kidney cancers, pancreatic cancer, cancers of the esophagus, and cervical cancer to name some of the more common ones.

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is another of smoking effects. This is often from emphysema or breathlessness caused by damage to the air sacs, and chronic bronchitis, where there is coughing with much mucous that goes on for three months or more. Smoking is the most common cause of COPD and is estimated to be responsible for 80 percent of COPD. COPD usually starts between ages 35 and 45 when lung function begins to decline anyway, but in smokers that rate is approximately three times the normal rate. As it progresses it leads to breathlessness and can cause severe breathing problems. This can eventually lead to hospitalization and in the final stages, death.

There are other associated risks from smoking. It can worsen asthma and counteract asthma medication by increasing the inflammation of the airways that the medicine is seeking to ease. Smoking couples have more fertility problems than non-smoking couples. Also smoking can affect the eyes by damaging the sensitive blood vessel there causing them to be itchy and bloodshot. Heavy smokers develop macular degeneration of the eyes at twice the rate of non-smokers which can lead to gradual loss of vision. Also smoking increases the risk of developing cataracts.

Smokers take 25 percent more sick days. Smoking not only stains the teeth and gums, it increases the incidence of periodontal disease. It can cause an acid taste in the mouth and helps the development of ulcers. Smokers tend to have more wrinkles and paler skin due to reduction of the blood supply to the skin and lowered vitamin A levels.

Men in their 30s and 40s who smoke have about a 50 percent greater risk of developing ED (erectile dysfunction), once again from the decreased blood circulation caused by smoking.
Finally, one of the many health-related reasons to quit smoking is it's effects on others. Babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are twice as likely to be premature and have low birth weight. In homes where the parents smoke, children have about twice the risk of asthma and asthmatic bronchitis as well as a higher risk of developing allergies. In adults, passive smoke seems to increase the risk of lung cancer but increased risk of heart disease is inconclusive. Regardless, it is obvious that smoking has a negative effect on the health of non-smokers living in the same household.

Taking all of the above into account, it is a worthy goal for a smoker to seek to become a non-smoker.