Health risks associated with smoking
Cancer. A third of all cancer deaths are smoking-related. Smokers have an increased risk of developing the following cancers: lung, throat, mouth, larynx, oesophageal, kidney, stomach, pancreatic, testicular/cervical.
Lungs - Smoking inflames the delicate tissue of your lungs, which can make breathing hard. Over time, this inflammation can cause scarring. Long-term exposure to smoke can result in the development of forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as emphysema, a disease that causes airway obstruction by destruction of the air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs, or chronic bronchitis, caused by inflammation of the lining of the tubes in your lungs. Tobacco smoke damages the tiny hairs called cilia, which work to sweep dust and irritants out of your lungs. If the cilia are unable to work correctly, your lungs become less able to clean themselves and you may become more susceptible to respiratory infections.
Heart - Smoking can increase your blood pressure levels, which puts strain on your heart. The carbon monoxide inhaled from cigarettes reduces oxygen availability, which forces your heart work harder. Smoking can damage the lining of your arteries, and lead to a build up of fatty material (atheroma) which narrows them. This can cause angina, a heart attack or a stroke.
Smoking also increases the levels of bad cholesterol and other fats in your blood. Deposits of these fats can build up in your arteries (atherosclerosis), making them narrow and harden, and potentially leading to blockages.
Brain - Nicotine is highly addictive, which is why many people find it so hard to quit smoking. Nicotine withdrawal can cause you to become irritable, anxious and depressed, suffer from headaches and have trouble sleeping. Smoking also increases your risk of developing a brain aneurysm, which, if it bursts, can cause brain damage or death.
Stomach - Smokers are at a greater risk of suffering from acid reflux, as tobacco smoke weakens the muscles controlling your oesophagus, allowing acid to travel up from your stomach.
Mouth - Tobacco use can inflame your gums, leading to a greater risk of developing tooth decay, tooth loss and bad breath.
Skin - Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen reaching your skin, causing it to discolour, wrinkle, and prematurely age. Smoking can also reduce levels of the hormone estrogen, which can lead to dry skin.
Reproduction and fertility - The fertility of a female smoker is estimated to be 72% that of a non-smoker. Smoking reduces levels of estrogen, which can trigger early menopause in women. In men, smoking increases the incidence of erectile dysfunction due to restricted blood flow. The toxins in cigarettes can also damage sperm and reduce sperm count, causing infertility.
Bones and muscles - Smoking reduces your body’s ability to make healthy bone tissue. Over time, your bones become increasingly brittle and weak (osteoporosis), putting you at a greater risk of breaks. The reduced levels of oxygen in your blood associated with smoking make it harder for your body to build up muscle, and your muscles tire more easily than a non-smoker.
Eyes - Smokers have an increased risk of developing cataracts, optic nerve damage and age-related macular degeneration, all of which can lead to blindness.