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Health Effects of Smoking

Smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 438,000 American lives each year, including those affected indirectly, such as babies born prematurely due to prenatal maternal smoking and victims of “secondhand” exposure to tobacco’s carcinogens.

Let’s take a look at the health effects of smoking i.e. what actually happens inside your body each time you light up. Think about how quickly tobacco smoke can produce harmful effects. The following are some of the health effects of smoking.

Your Eyes, Nose, & Throat

The health effects of smoking can be found on your eyes, nose and throat. Within a few seconds of your first puff, irritating gases such as formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and others begin to work on sensitive membranes of your eyes, nose, and throat.

Your eyes water, your nose runs, and your throat is irritated. If you continue smoking, these irritating gases will contribute to your smoker’s cough. Continued smoking produces abnormal thickening in the membranes lining your throat, accompanied by cellular changes that resemble those that occur in throat cancer.


The health effects of smoking are very dangerous with regards to lungs. Continued exposure can entirely paralyze the lungs’ natural cleansing process. (Smoking and Lung Cancer)

  • Your respiratory rate increases, forcing your lungs to work harder.
  • Irritating gases produce chemical injury to the tissues of your lungs. This speeds up the production of mucus and leads to an increased tendency to cough up sputum.
  • Excess mucus serves as a breeding ground for a variety of bacteria and viruses. You become more prone to colds, flu, bronchitis, and other respiratory infections. And if you do come down with an infection, your body is less able to fight it, because smoking impairs the ability of the white blood cells to fight invading organisms.
  • The lining of your bronchi begins to thicken, predisposing you to cancer. Most lung cancers arise in the bronchial lining.
  • Smoke weakens the free-roving scavenger cells that remove foreign particles from the air sacs of the lungs. Continued smoke exposure adversely affects elastin, which is the enzyme that keeps your lungs flexible, predisposing you to emphysema.
  • Many of the compounds you inhale are deposited as a layer of sticky tar on the lining of your throat and bronchi and in the delicate air sacs of your lungs. A pack-a-day smoker pours about a pint – 16 ounces – of tar into his or her lungs each year. This tar is rich in cancer producing chemicals.

Health Effects Of Smoking On Your Heart

From the moment smoke reaches your lungs, your heart is forced to work harder. It beats an extra 10 to 25 times per minute, or as many as 36,000 additional times per day.

Your heartbeat is more likely to be irregular because of the irritating effect of nicotine and other components of tobacco smoke. A recent Surgeon General’s report regarding the health effects of smoking on heart estimated that each year about 170,000 heart attacks are caused by smoking.

Another unofficial statistic on the health effects of smoking on heart estimated that half of smokers’ first heart attacks are fatal. In other words, if you are smoking and you have a heart attack, you have only a fifty-fifty chance of survival. Between 75 and 80 percent of survivors stop smoking after their first heart attack.

Blood Vessels

The health effects of smoking can also be found on your blood pressure. Your blood pressure increases by 10 to 15 percent every time you light up, putting additional stress on your heart and blood vessels and increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Smoking increases your risk of Berger’s disease, which cuts off virtually all the circulation in your extremities. Severe cases require amputation.

Health Effects of Smoking on Blood

The main cause of health effects of smoking is carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is the colorless, odorless, deadly gas present in automobile exhaust. It is present in cigarette smoke in more than 600 times the concentration considered safe in industrial plants.

A smoker’s blood typically contains four to fifteen times as much carbon monoxide as that of a nonsmoker. This carbon monoxide stays in the bloodstream for up to six hours after you stop smoking. You decrease your likelihood of sudden death by 50 percent within a few hours of ceasing smoking.

The carbon monoxide passes immediately into your blood when you breathe in cigarette smoke, binding to the oxygen receptor sites and expelling the oxygen molecules from your red blood cells.

This means that less oxygen reaches your brain and other vital organs. Because of this added carbon monoxide load, a smoker’s red blood cells are also less effective in removing carbon dioxide in the gas-exchange system that occurs in the lungs.

Longtime smokers have abnormally high levels of red blood cells – a condition called polycythemia. Additionally, smoking makes your blood clot more easily. Both of these factors markedly increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.

The Skin

You can also find the health effects of smoking on skin to a major extent. Smoking constricts the blood vessels in your skin, decreasing the delivery of life-giving oxygen to the largest organ in your body. This combined with the damaging rays of the sun causes premature wrinkling in smokers.

There are some fairly graphic films that are shown in smoking workshops that depicts the horribly wrinkled skin of women smokers in their fifties. And many testimonies have been given by smokers that seeing these films were a positive motivator to break free of smoking.

If vanity were more compelling a motivator, more smokers would break free, because they are at high risk for a medical syndrome commonly called “smoker’s face.”

This is characterized by deep lines around the corners of the mouth and eyes, a gauntness of facial features, and a grayish appearance of the skin. In one study, 46 percent of long-term smokers were found to have smoker’s face.

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