Smoking and Its Effects on Your Body

Author: Thomas C. Weiss
Published: Tuesday 25th November 2014 - Updated: Monday 24th November 2014
Summary: Information regarding health hazards of smoking including effect on nervous, cardiovascular and sexual reproduction systems.

Tobacco smoke is incredibly harmful to your health. There is also no safe way to smoke. Replacing a cigarette with a pipe, cigar or hookah will not help you to avoid the health risks related to use of tobacco products.

Cigarettes contain hundreds of ingredients. When they burn they generate more than 7,000 chemicals according to the American Lung Association. A number of those chemicals are poisonous and at least 69 of them may cause cancer. Many of the same ingredients are found in cigars and in tobacco used in pipes and hookahs. The National Cancer Institute states that cigars have a higher level of toxins, carcinogens and tar than cigarettes do.

When a person uses a hookah pipe they are likely to inhale more smoke than they would from a cigarette. Hookah smoke has many toxic compounds and exposes a person to more carbon monoxide than cigarettes do. Hookahs also produce more secondhand smoke. In America, the mortality rate for smokers is three times that of those who never smoked according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is one of the leading causes of preventable death. So what parts of a person's health are affected by smoking? Smoking affects many things related to a person health such as:

Smoking and Your Hair, Skin and Nails

Some of the more obvious signs of smoking involve a person's skin. The substances in tobacco smoke actually change the structure of your skin. Smoking causes skin discoloration, premature aging and wrinkles. A person's fingernails and the skin on their fingers may have yellow stains from holding burning cigarettes. Smokers usually develop yellow or brown stains on their teeth. Hair holds onto the smell of tobacco smoke long after a cigarette has been put out; it even clings to the hair of people who do not smoke.

Smoking and Your Central Nervous System

One of the ingredients in tobacco is a mood-altering drug called, 'nicotine.' Nicotine reaches a person's brain in seconds and is a central nervous system stimulant, so it makes you feel more energized for a short period of time. As the effect subsides, you feel tired and want more. Nicotine is indeed habit-forming.

Smoking increases a person's risk of macular degeneration, poor eyesight and cataracts. It may also weaken your sense of smell and taste, so food might become less enjoyable. Your body has a stress hormone called, 'corticosterone,' which lowers the effects of nicotine. If you are under a great amount of stress, you will need more nicotine to obtain the same effect. Physical withdrawal from smoking can impair your cognitive functioning while making you feel irritated, anxious and depressed. Withdrawal symptoms can also include sleep issues and headaches.

Smoking and Your Cardiovascular System

Smoking damages a person's entire cardiovascular system. When nicotine hits a person's body, it gives their blood sugar a boost. After a short while, they are left feeling tired and craving more nicotine. Nicotine causes blood vessels to tighten, something that restricts the flow of blood. Smoking lowers good cholesterol levels while raising a person's blood pressure – something that can result in stretching of the person's arteries and a buildup of bad cholesterol. Smoking raises the risk of forming blood clots.

Blood clots and weakened blood vessels in the brain increase a smoker's risk of experiencing a stroke. Smokers who have heart bypass surgery are also at increased risk of recurrent coronary heart disease. Smokers are also at increased risk of blood cancer.

The risks smokers experience are presented to nonsmokers as well. Breathing secondhand smoke has an immediate effects on a person's cardiovascular system. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases a person's risk of heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease.

Smoking and Your Respiratory System

When someone inhales smoke, they are taking in substances that can damage their lungs. Over time, their lungs lose their ability to filter chemicals that are harmful. Coughing cannot clear out the toxins and the toxins get trapped in the person's lungs. Smokers have an increased risk of colds, flu and respiratory infections.

In a condition called, 'emphysema,' the air sacs in a person's lungs are destroyed. In chronic bronchitis, the lining of the tubes of the lungs become inflamed. Over time, smokers are at increased risk of developing these forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or, 'COPD.' Long-term smokers are also at increased risk of lung cancer. Withdrawal from use of tobacco products can cause temporary congestion and respiratory pain as a person's lungs start to clear out.

Children who have parents who smoke are more prone to wheezing, coughing and asthma attacks than children with parents who do not smoke. They also experience more ear infections. Children of parents who smoke have higher rates of bronchitis and pneumonia.

Smoking, Sexuality and Your Reproductive System

Restricted blood flow can affect a man's ability to obtain an erection. Both men and women who smoke might have difficulty with achieving an orgasm and are at increased risk of infertility. Women who smoke may experience menopause at an earlier age than women who do not smoke. Smoking also increases a woman's risk of cervical cancer.

Women who smoke experience more complications of pregnancy, to include problems with their placenta, miscarriage and premature delivery. Pregnant mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also more likely to have a baby with low birth weight. Babies born to mothers who smoke while they are pregnant are at increased risk of birth defects, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Newborns who breathe secondhand smoke experience more asthma attacks and ear infections.

Smoking and Your Digestive System

Smokers are at high risk of developing oral issues. Tobacco use can cause inflammation of the gums, or infection. These issues can lead to tooth decay, bad breath and even loss of teeth.

Smoking increases a person's risk of cancer of the throat, mouth, esophagus and larnyx. Smokers have higher rates of kidney and pancreatic cancers. Cigar smokers who do not inhale are still at an increased risk of mouth cancer.

Smoking has an effect on insulin, which makes it more likely that a smoker will develop insulin resistance. Insulin resistance places a person at increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Smokers tend to develop complications related to diabetes faster than people who do not smoke. On top of all of this, smoking depresses a person's appetite so they may not be receiving all of the nutrients their body needs. Withdrawal from use of tobacco products can cause nausea too.

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