The purpose of this section is simply to remind smokers that while you may not see many negative effects from smoking right now, the future may not be as forgiving. We not only look at the many health effects brought on by smoking but other effects as well. At the end of this guide we have also discussed how you can quit smoking in 5 steps.
Here are some scary facts about smoking, some of which might surprise you:
According to cancer.org, more than 6 million people die around the globe annually, with 30% dying from cancer and other diseases caused because of smoking side effects
Tobacco has caused more deaths in the US than all the American wars combined
According to a CDC fact sheet, more deaths are caused by tobacco every single year than combined deaths caused by illicit drug abuse, alcohol use, HIV, road accidents, and gunshots.
Most people think that smoking affects your lungs only, but as a matter of fact, every major organ in your body bears the negative effects of tobacco when you smoke. However, the biggest weapon of tobacco is tar and other 7000+ chemicals that are produced when it burns. More than 70 chemicals found in tobacco are known to cause cancer. In addition to causing lung cancer, smoking can cause cancer in several other organs such as oral cavity, lips, bronchus, esophagus, larynx, stomach, pancreas, kidney, liver, nasal cavity, colon, rectum, and trachea.
What About Effects of Light and Menthol Cigarettes?
Well, there is no such thing as a less harmful cigarette, let alone a safe cigarette. Milds, lights, low-tar and menthols are nothing but a marketing strategy by the big tobacco companies to lure people into their net. Whether or not a mild or light cigarette has the same amount of tar and nicotine as a regular cigarette, but researches show that they are equally harmful.
As for menthol cigarette, while some people think they are less harmful, however, this isn’t true again. In fact, menthol cigarettes are considered more addictive than the non-menthol cigarettes, although more research is required on how and why addiction differs between menthol and regular cigarettes. Just like lights and menthols, cigars and pipes also carry same or similar risks.
Potential Health Effects of Smoking
Lung cancer is without a doubt the worst health effect brought on by smoking. It is a life changing disease brought on by years of inhaling tar and ash. Whether you are facing the disease yourself or simply want to learn more about what it entails, check out this page.
COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
COPD is any disease or combination of diseases that causes airflow issues in the lungs. Commons symptoms are shortness of breath and extreme coughing. The main cause of COPD worldwide is, you guessed it, smoking.
Emphysema is actually classified under COPD. Emphysema isn’t quite as well-known or feared as lung cancer, but it is an extremely serious and chronic condition that can also bring on huge changes in your life. Emphysema is strongly associated with smoking; the constant stream of smoke into the lungs causes the alveoli (the sacs in the lungs that facilitate the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide) to break down. This causes what they call “obstruction” in the lungs, which makes it very hard to breathe and is a major reason someone would have to be put on oxygen.
In the face of issues like lung cancer and emphysema, many forget that smoking also greatly increases the chance of cardiovascular disease. Smoking causes general inflammation through the body, raises blood pressure, and is linked to atherosclerosis and peripheral arterial disease. Researchers know a lot but not everything about the link between smoking and the heart, but they are certain that there is a definite link between smoking and cardiovascular disease.
Increased Risk of Stroke
Strokes are also a serious concern for long time smokers, and for the same reasons mentioned above. Smoking causes the double danger of increased blood pressure and increased risk of blood clots. Those two factors combined make long time smokers much more prone to strokes than non-smokers.
Central Nervous System Disorders
When nicotine – the mood-altering chemical found in tobacco – reaches the brain, it instantly impacts the entire nervous system. This impact energizes the smoker for a short period of time, but when the impact goes away, the user feels exhausted and craves for more nicotine. This in the long run, can have severe effects on the entire nervous system.
Human body produces corticosterone, which is a stress hormone. It’s produced when you’re feeling down and anxious. While the hormone is released to keep your body balanced, it also lowers the impact of nicotine. For those who are addicted to nicotine have a hard time in getting their cravings fulfilled when they are under stress, and thus want higher amount of nicotine. This is why smokers smoke more than regular when they are strained. In the long run, the amount of nicotine required to fulfill the craving also goes up and can eventually disturb the optimal levels of corticosterone.
Skin, Hair, and Nails (Integumentary System) Problems
The most obvious effects of smoking can appear on your skin and teeth because the compounds found in tobacco have the capability of changing the structure of your skin. The effects usually appear in the form of wrinkles, discoloration, and other skin issues. Teeth of smokers develop yellow and brown stains because of continuous contact with smoke, which are extremely disgusting and even regular brushing doesn’t help. The structure of human hair makes them hold on to the smoke and smell of tobacco, and it can stay in there long after you smoked. This can result in Marie Antoinette Syndrome (sudden, premature whitening of the hair), dandruff, hair fall and other disorders.
Digestive System Disorders
From oral cavities to gum inflation to tooth decay to increase the risk of cancer of mouth, esophagus, larynx, and throat, smoking can result in any digestive system disorder. Smoking can also cause insulin resistance and increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Chemicals found in smoke also depress appetite and can even lead to loss of appetite. In short, the whole digestive system of a smoker gets a continuous thrashing, and can eventually suffer severe consequences.
Sexuality and Reproductive System Disorders
Heavy smokers, both men and women, at best can have difficulty achieving orgasm and at worst can become completely infertile. In men, smoking can cause erectile dysfunction because of restricted or uneven blood flow while women may experience early menopause and can develop cervical cancer. Smoking women usually experience complications during pregnancy and their babies can be born with disorders such as low birth weight, birth defects, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) etc., majorly due to the carbon monoxide and tar in the tobacco.
Smoking can also result in a variety of skeletal issues. For example, recent studies confirm a link between prolonged tobacco use and decreased bone density. Also, when smokers grow old, they are at a higher risk of getting a fracture, but their bones take longer to heal than a nonsmoker of the same age. Complete smoking cessation supplemented with proper diet can actually reduce all the risks involved, however, it can take several years depending on how long the person has been smoking.
Smoking can be as dangerous for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Smokers are at least twice as likely to develop muscular degenerative order and cataracts as compared to nonsmokers. In fact, science has now confirmed that smoking is the leading cause of vision loss.
Quit Day: 5 Steps
You’ve decided to quit smoking. Congratulations! Your first day without cigarettes can be difficult. Here are five steps you can take to handle quit day and be confident about being able to stay quit.
1. Make a Quit Plan
Having a plan can make your quit day easier. A quit plan gives you ways to stay focused, confident, and motivated to quit. You can build your own quit plan or find a quit program that works for you. If using nicotine replacement therapy is part of your plan, be sure to start using it first thing in the morning.
2. Stay Busy
Keeping busy is a great way to stay smokefree on your quit day. Being busy will help you keep your mind off smoking and distract you from cravings. Think about trying some of these activities:
- Get out of the house for a walk.
- Chew gum or hard candy.
- Keep your hands busy with a pen or toothpick.
- Drink lots of water.
- Relax with deep breathing.
- Go to a movie.
- Spend time with non-smoking friends and family.
- Go to dinner at your favorite smokefree restaurant.
3. Avoid Smoking Triggers
Triggers are the people, places, things, and situations that set off your urge to smoke. On your quit day, try to avoid all your triggers. Here are some tips to help you outsmart some common smoking triggers:
- Throw away your cigarettes, lighters, and ash trays if you haven’t already.
- Avoid caffeine, which can make you feel jittery. Try drinking water instead.
- Spend time with non-smokers.
- Go to places where smoking isn’t allowed.
- Get plenty of rest and eat healthy. Being tired can trigger you to smoke.
- Change your routine to avoid the things you might associate with smoking.
4. Stay Positive
Quitting smoking is difficult. It happens one minute… one hour… one day at a time. Try not to think of quitting as forever. Pay attention to today and the time will add up. It helps to stay positive. Your quit day might not be perfect, but all that matters is that you don’t smoke—not even one puff. Reward yourself for being smokefree for 24 hours. You deserve it. And if you’re not feeling ready to quit today, set a quit date that makes sense for you. It’s OK if you need a few more days to prepare to quit smoking.
5. Ask for Help
You don’t need to rely on willpower alone to be smokefree. Tell your family and friends when your quit day is. Ask them for support on quit day and in the first few days and weeks after. They can help you get through the rough spots. Let them know exactly how they can support you. Don’t assume they’ll know.