The long-term effects of smoking on our health and illnesses caused by smoking.
Whether you smoke 5 cigarettes a day or 50, there is no doubt that smoking is extremely bad for you and will seriously affect your health in some way.
Smoking cigarettes can harm almost every organ in your body, from top to bottom and inside and out. Moreover, it is only now that doctors are beginning to discover the true extent of the harm that smoking can cause to a person's health and to the health of those around him.
Smoking over a prolonged period of time can cause a number of serious diseases and illnesses, some fatal and others that will not kill you but will leave you with a poorer quality of life in general.
Usually a person takes up smoking when they are young and the effects that smoking may have on their health does not enter their head at the time. Within a short while, they will become addicted to nicotine and it will be too late to give up. The younger a person starts to smoke, the greater the health risks they will face later on in life.
Smoking is one of the biggest single causes of preventable disease and premature death in a large number of mainly developed countries around the world. In the UK around 120,000 people die each year from smoking-related diseases. 50% of long-term smokers die prematurely from smoking, a large number of them when they reach middle age.
Globally around 2.5 million people die each year from smoking and it has been estimated that some time during the 2020's the number of deaths caused by smoking will hit the 10 million mark.
The majority of people who die from smoking will have suffered from one of three main diseases: lung cancer, coronary heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Around 90% of all lung cancer deaths are caused from smoking and smoking is also the biggest risk factor for a number of other types of cancer as well. Overall, smoking has been linked to a third of all deaths from cancer. In the US, 1 in every 4 people die of cancer and over half a million people die each year from this disease. To give you a clearer idea, more than 1,500 people a day die from cancer.
People who smoke a lot of cigarettes a day are particularly at risk of developing cancer and if those people have been smoking for a long time, the risk is even higher. For example, a person who has been smoking one packet of cigarettes a day for 30 years is more at risk than a person who has been smoking two packs a day for 15 years.
Smoking also causes a quarter of all deaths from heart disease. Over 70% of smokers between the ages of 35 and 44 who die of coronary heart disease, die prematurely due to smoking. In teenagers who smoke, early signs of heart disease, such as the building up of fatty deposits in the arteries, can be detected.
In the US, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death and more than 2,600 people die each day from some form of cardiovascular disease, which may have been caused by smoking.
Smoking also causes strokes and heart attacks and doctors say that smokers are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers and three times as likely to suffer a stroke. However, on a more positive note, if a smoker quits smoking, after 5 years, the risk of suffering a heart attack is halved and after 10 years the risk drops to the same as that of a non-smoker who has never smoked.
Another major illness and cause of death from smoking is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This term is used generally and includes a number of lung destroying and respiratory illnesses that are brought on by smoking. The main diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The airways and tissues of the lungs are destroyed, which will in time make breathing extremely difficult. Sufferers of these diseases may experience shortness of breath, chest pain, constant coughing and tiring after a small amount of exertion.
At the moment, the symptoms can be eased with medical treatment, however as yet no cure exists. If you already have either of these diseases, giving up smoking will stop their progression. If you do not suffer from any of the symptoms associated with either emphysema or chronic bronchitis, then giving up smoking will greatly reduce the risk of developing these seriously debilitating illnesses.
Smoking reduces a person's life expectancy from anything from 7 years to 30 years. Generally smokers are less healthy and less physically fit than non-smokers. In addition, they take more days off work through illness than non-smokers and are more prone to common illnesses such as colds or sore throats. Smokers will get out of breath much quicker after exertion and find it harder to exercise and they will also have a higher risk of infections, as the body's immune system is damaged from smoking.
As well as having long-term negative effects on a person's health, smoking also has immediate effects on the body. After smoking a cigarette your blood pressure will rise and your heart rate will increase by about 20 beats per minute.
Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas, will enter the lungs and begin to replace the oxygen. The tiny hairs in the lungs that filter the air that you breathe will cease to work, as they become paralysed by the poisons that are contained in tobacco smoke. Circulation, especially to the hands and feet becomes less efficient and the temperature of the skin may drop by up to 5°C. Your nervous system will be altered and smoking can cause muscle tension.
In the long-term, smoking causes other diseases apart from those mentioned above. Below is a list of diseases, illnesses and other effects that are caused from smoking:
- Lung cancer
- Cancer of the mouth
- Cancer of the throat
- Cancer of the larynx
- Cancer of the oesophagus
- Stomach cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Cancer of the bladder
- Cancer of the pancreas
- Liver cancer
- Cancer of the penis
- Cancer of the anus
- Cervical cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Heart attack
- Coronary heart disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Peripheral artery disease
- Ischaemic heart disease
- Chronic bronchitis
- Stomach ulcers
- Gum disease
- High blood pressure
- Crohn's disease
- Premature aging of the skin
- Loss of smell and taste
- Osteoporosis (women)
- Reduced fertility