Harmful Effects of Smoking

Smoking is bad for you. But come on, we know you know that. Currently smoking kills almost half of its users. That’s 7 million people a year! Read all about the harmful effects of smoking here.

It would be great if smoking didn’t kill people but sadly the carbon monoxide and tar found in cigarettes do your body a lot of damage. The carbon monoxide starves your organs of oxygen meaning they cannot work properly. On the other hand, the tar sticks to your lungs, clogs them up and affects your breathing.

In this post we are going to look at all the ways smoking can damage your health and ultimately cause death.

Problems Smoking Can Cause Your Lungs

As mentioned, the tar in cigarettes clog up your lungs. This makes your lungs produce more, thicker, mucus. Your lungs also don’t clean themselves as the cilia (SILL-ee-uh) are damaged. Cilia are small hairs inside the lung that are vital to your lung’s health. Smoking prevents them from working properly and decreases the number of cilia in your lungs.

With the mucus not being cleaned properly it stays in the lung. This can become infected.

Cigarettes contain chemical that can turn cells cancerous.

Lung Disease

Smoking is the primary cause of COPD.

Smoking causes COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) by stiffening the alveoli (air sacs), destroying the walls in between sacs, increasing the amount of mucus in the lungs and inflaming the walls of airways.

Worsen Asthma Attacks

The damage to cilia that smoking causes prevent the dust and other asthma triggers being cleaned from your lungs. This can lead to an asthma attack. In addition, smoking allows irritable substances and chemicals to settle in the lungs. The end result is an asthma attack.

Lung Cancer

Jump to section.

Heart and Blood Problems Caused by Smoking

Smoking damages your heart.

Cigarette smoke reduces the oxygen in the blood making the heart work faster. Nicotine also makes your body produce adrenaline which strains your heart and raises your blood pressure. On top of this, your blood can clot which increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.


Strokes reduce the oxygen in your blood making your heart work faster. Smoking makes a blood clot more likely. This alongside arterial furring caused by smoking can all lead to a stroke as the arteries leading to your brain a sceptical to become restricted. This means the blood cannot get to your brain, leading to an aneurysm.

Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary heart disease is where plaque builds up inside the arteries restricting the flow of oxygen rich blood to the heart. This is called furring. Furring can lead to a heart attack.

Chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause furring of the arteries by reducing the good cholesterol in your body.

Heart Attack

As your blood vessels become stiff due to smoking they can no longer expand and contact with ease making them more likely to split. This can cause a heart attack, a strong or angina.

Type 2 Diabetes and Smoking

Nicotine causes insulin resistance which can lead to prediabetes. A person with prediabetes is at elevated risk of progressing type 2 diabetes. Although not a direct cause of diabetes, smokers are 44% more likely to develop diabetes whereas heavy smokers are 61% more likely.

Blindness and Smoking

Smokers are much more likely to develop cataracts and age related macular degeneration which can all lead to complete loss of vision.

Cigarette smoke contains chemicals which damage your eyes when inhaled. These chemicals can attack the macula. This can cause blood vessels to burst into the macula which is very damaging and leads to loss of vision.

Doctors think that smoking causes oxidation which alters the cells of the lens, contributing to cataracts.

Gum Disease Caused by Smoking

Certain studies have shown that smokers have more hardened plaque or tartar around their teeth which may cause gum disease. On top of this, research does suggest that smoking affects your immune system making it harder to fight off a gum infection

Rheumatoid Arthritis Due to Smoking

There is a direct link between smoking and rheumatoid arthritis, but that link is not properly understood. There is a theory that smoking triggers a faulty immune system apparent in people at risk.

Hip Fractures and Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of hip fractures. This is because smoking cigarettes leads to a faster loss of bone. It is unclear if this is directly caused by smoking or by other risk factors common amongst smokers, for example, being less active.

Fertility Issues Caused by Smoking

Female smokers are at a higher risk of infertility and can also take longer to get pregnant.

In men smoking can lower the sperm count meaning there is less chance of conception. Smoking can also slow down the sperm making it harder for the sperm to penetrate the egg.

Lower Fertility Rates

Smoking lowers fertility by damaging the fallopian tubes by blocking them. Smoking can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. On top of this smoking can also cause cervical cancer.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg begins to develop outside the womb. This usually happens in one of the fallopian tubes.

Research lead by Dr Andrew Horne shows woman smokers have more protein PROKR1 in their fallopian tubes. PROKR1 helps pregnancies implant in the womb but if this protein is found in the fallopian tubes it can cause an ectopic pregnancy.

Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is when a male cannot obtain or maintain an erect penis.

As smoking narrows the arteries,  blood supply to the penis is limited. Blood in the penis is essential to maintaining an erection.

Cleft Lip

A cleft lip is an opening in the upper lip because of tissue not joining completely before birth.

Research by the American Journal of Human Genetics discovered that either “genetic variations in the mother influence her own metabolism of the smoke in its by-products, thus setting in motion developmental changes that cause the cleft in the foetus” or “genetic variations in the foetus itself compromise its ability to metabolise the cigarette smoke and cause the clef”. Both scenarios agree that smoking during maternity increases the risk of a cleft lip.

Cancers Caused by Smoking

Cancer is a disease that is characterised by out of control cell growth. This is when the cells divide at a rapid rate and form lumps or tumours.

Each cigarette contains the following carcinogens, each of which can cause cancer.

All Chemicals in Cigarettes

Acetaldehyde, Aminobiphenyl, o-Anisidine hydrochloride, Arsenic, N-Nitrosodi-n-butylamine, N-Nitrosodiethanolamine, N-Nitrosodiethylamine, N-Nitrosodimethylamine, N-Nitrosodi-n-propylamine, 4-(N-Nitrosomethylamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone, N-Nitrosonornicotine, N-Nitrosopiperidine, N-Nitrosopyrrolidine, N-Nitrososarcosine, Beryllium, Naphthylamine, Benzene, o-Toluidine, Vinyl chloride, Furan, Heterocyclic amines, Hydrazine, Dimethylhydrazine, Isoprene, Cadmium, Ethylene oxide, Formaldehyde, Nitromethane, Butadiene, Polonium-210, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, Lead.

Each of these ingredients has cancer causing properties.

Below we will look at the types of cancers these chemicals can cause.

Lung Cancer

The lungs are the hardest hit through smoking. This is because the lung come directly into contact with cigarette smoke.

Cigarette smoke does two things. Firstly, it contains carcinogens, which cause cells multiply uncontrollably. Secondly it irritates the lungs and creates excess mucus which can lead to infections. These infections damage the lung.

When the lungs are fighting an infection, they must repair damaged tissue. If this tissue contains carcinogenic cells that have formed tumours, then lung cancer can develop aggressively.

Blood Cancer

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is a type of blood and bone marrow cancer.

Smoking is directly linked to AML.

A lot of people think that smoking only affects the parts of the body that come into direct contact with smoke. This is not the case. As harmful chemicals enter the bloodstream through your lungs smoking can affect almost every part of your body.

Cervix Cancer

The reasons why smoking causes cervix cancer is slightly unclear. There is a link as smokers have 3.4 times the risk of non-smokers to develop cervix cancer.

One leading theory as to why smokers are more at risk to cervix cancer is that smoker’s weaker immune system prevents the body to properly fight HPV. The carcinogens found in chemicals can increase the effectiveness of the HPV infection in attacking cervical cells. These cells may become cancerous.

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal or bowel cancer is cancer that affects the colon and rectum.

As smoking causes mutations, these mutations can cause precancerous polyps – a growth in the large intestines. These can become cancerous.

Oesophageal Cancer

Oesophageal cancer is where cancerous cells form inside the oesophagus.

As tobacco smoke contains carcinogens, the cells that make us the oesophagus can become irritated and cancerous.

Bladder Cancer

Smoker’s bladders are continually exposed to the chemicals in cigarettes as the chemicals pass into your blood and then your urine. Over time, the bladder’s cells can change which can lead to cancer.

Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is where the kidney cells become cancerous and form a tumour.

In this case, the carcinogens travel through the blood stream to the kidneys and damage the kidney cells. The kidneys then grow tumours. These can become quite large before they are detected.

Ureter Cancer

Ureter cancer is cancer that effects the tubes that transport urine from the urine to the bladder.

Ureter Cancer is caused in the same way that bladder and kidney cancer is caused.

Larynx Cancer

The larynx is the voice box. Larynx cancer is where the cells form in the tissues inside the larynx.

It is not clear why the cells in the Larynx change, however doctors think that cigarettes (and alcohol) contain chemicals that damage the Larynx cells.

People who smoke 25 cigarettes a day are 40 times more likely to develop larynx cancer than non-smokers.

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer is where the cells of the liver become cancerous.

There are two types of liver cancer; primary and secondary. Primary liver cancer is where the cancer begins in the liver. It is uncommon but serious. Secondary liver cancer is where the cancer begins in another part of the body but spreads to the liver.

As smoking cases cancer in most parts of the body, this cancer can spread. It is important to note that N-Nitrosodiethylamine, N-Nitrosopyrrolidine and Arsenic can all increase your risk of developing liver cancer. All of these chemicals are present in cigarettes.

Oropharynx and Mouth Cancer


The oropharynx is the part of your throat that includes the tonsils, back of the tongue and the soft palate. Oropharynx cancer is where cancerous cells form in the cells of the oropharynx.

It is not proven but scientists believe that cigarettes damage the DNA of the cells of the oropharynx.

Chemicals in cigarettes cause a mutation in the cells of the mouth. This can lead to mouth/oral cancer. There is also a similar risk attached to chewing tobacco.

Pancreas Cancer

The pancreas is the organ that sits below the stomach and secretes enzymes or digestive juices into the small pancreas. The pancreas also regulates blood sugar levels producing insulin and releasing it into the bloodstream

Smoking is estimated to cause one in four cases of pancreas cancer. The reasons why smoking causes pancreas cancer are unknown. Scientists believe that the carcinogens in cigarettes inflame the pancreas and cause fibrosis. This, as well as genetic factors, lead to the death of cells.

Carcinogenic compounds in cigarette smoke stimulate pancreatic cancer progression through induction of inflammation and fibrosis which act alongside genetic factors leading to the inhibition of cell death and rapid reproduction of cells.

Stomach Cancer

Smokers are twice as likely to succumb to stomach cancer.

This is because smokers end up with the carcinogenic chemicals in their stomachs, either through swallowing smoke or through saliva. These cancer-causing chemicals attack the cells of the stomach causing cell death and cancer.

Trachea Cancer

Trachea is the medical term for the windpipe.

This form of cancer is rare. However, smoking is linked to this type of cancer. A lot of trachea cancer is caused by cancer from the oropharynx larynx and lung.


Overall the main harm of smoking is inevitably death.

The strain smoking has on the heart, lungs and other vital organs can be fatal. We all know smoking is bad for you and in some respect we all know that smoking causes death, but let us be clear – smoking increases you chances of premature death…

Are you Ready to Quit?

Cigarette addiction is a serious condition. Only 4 to 7% f people who go cold turkey can stay off the cigarettes. You need to get help from a trained professional or healthcare provider.

We can help you quit! View our laser stop smoking services online today.

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