How Smoking Affects Your Health


Smoking tobacco products is responsible for the death of over 100,000 adults in the UK every year. Almost half of these deaths are from cancer. The remainder die from heart and circulatory disease or slowly and painfully from emphysema and other more chronic forms of lung disease. Did you know that the number of people aged under 70 who die as a direct result of smoking is greater than the all those who succumb to AIDS, road accidents, drug addiction and breast cancer put together? Smoking has been shown to reduce your life expectancy by 11 minutes per cigarette – that’s about seven to eight years altogether, depending how many you smoke each day.

Why are cigarettes so damaging to health? Well, they contain in excess of 4,000 chemicals and chemical compounds together at least 400 of which are toxic. It’s the heat generated as you inhale that causes the tobacco to break down and generate the various toxins. Some of these are caught by the cigarette filter in the butt, but many aren’t. The most damaging by-products are tar (carcinogenic), and nicotine (an addictive, cholesterol raising chemical).

The main killer is cardiovascular disease which is far more common in people who smoke than in those who don’t. The intake of nicotine from tobacco causes the arteries to harden and narrow which can eventually lead to the formation of blood clots. Thirty per cent of heart attacks are caused by smoking. If a blood clot finds its way to the brain, it can cause a stroke resulting in death or disability. Reduced blood supply to the brain can also cause dementia. In the case of damage to the arteries supplying the kidneys, the increased blood pressure can result in kidney failure. Circulatory problems in the legs commonly causes gangrene and amputation may be necessary.

Lung, throat and mouth cancer are killers which almost exclusively affect smokers; in fact 90% of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking. Of those who smoke more than 15 cigarettes in a day, one in five of them will die of lung cancer. Other common smoking related cancers are; bladder cancer, oesophageal cancer, kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and cervical cancer.

COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is the term used to cover a number of conditions which cause chronic, long term breathing problems. Of these, emphysema and bronchitis are the most common and the most debilitating. Eighty per cent of COPD cases are smokers. Although the damage caused by COPD is irreversible, quitting can help stop things getting worse.

And if all that wasn’t reason enough to quit, smoking does nothing for your looks either. The blood vessels in the eye are very sensitive. Smoke causes irritation resulting in the eyes appearing bloodshot and itchy. Heavy smoking also causes macular degeneration which will cause a gradual loss of eyesight. The risk of cataracts is also increased by smoking. Smoking reduces the blood supply to the skin which causes dryness and sagging especially around the mouth and lips. Teeth become stained and yellowed and smokers are more likely to contract periodontal disease resulting in chronic halitosis, swollen gums and loss of teeth. Altogether; not a good look.

If you’re thinking of starting a family you might want to quit now. Smoking in men in their 30s and 40s greatly increases erectile dysfunction by about 50 per cent. This is due to the narrowing of the blood vessels in the genital region and worsens over time. It’s also an indication that damage is being caused in other areas of the body such as the heart.

Scary stuff eh? So, don’t put it off another day; start your campaign to quit now. No-one said it would be easy but there’s support by the bucket-load right here on the BH site.

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