Community education over the last several decades has made cigarette smoking far less popular than it once was – some studies indicate a 25 percent decrease since the ’60s – but everyday teenagers continue to pick up the habit. The CDC reports that two-thirds of the 3,000 teens that start smoking each day will start a regular habit. This habit is a deadly one, connected with 90 percent of lung cancer cases and one-third of fatal heart disease cases.
Most people are familiar with the risk of disease associated with smoking, but many smokers are not aware of the immediate effects of smoking on all parts of the body. Below, find the biggest effects smoking has on the body in addition to the high risk of fatal disease.
The Brain and Nervous System
While most smokers report that smoking relaxes them, nicotine is actually a stimulant. Immediately after a smoker inhales, the nicotine stimulates dopamine and adrenaline. This nearly instantaneous release of dopamine is what feels so good and keeps smokers coming back for more, but the stimulant also causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Over time, the increased heart rate and blood pressure cause long-term damage to the body.
The release of dopamine also has a long-term effect. This pleasurable hormone causes nicotine cravings and accounts for a significant portion of the addiction that smokers experience. As addiction progresses, smokers need more and more nicotine to feel good.
When people initially start smoking, they are frequently unaware of the impact smoking can have on their appearance. The most noticeable effect is frequently observed in the teeth, which quickly yellow and decay. Smokers are at higher risk for gum and tooth disease, bad breath, and various oral and throat cancers. The tars are cigarette smoke coat the teeth, mouth and throat over time.
The stimulant aspect of cigarette smoking contributes significantly to a poor appearance. Long-term smokers generally appear older than their actual age and have more wrinkles and skin problems. This is likely attributed to nicotine’s stimulus of adrenaline and heart rate. The body ages quicker because it is forced to work harder by the stimulant.
The Heart and Cardiovascular System
The impacts of smoking on the cardiovascular system are devastating. As mentioned above, nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure, which puts a significant, ongoing strain on the heart and body. Medical information suggests nicotine also hardens the walls of veins and contributes to a significantly increased risk of coronary disease and heart attack.
Nicotine has several direct effects that contribute to this:
- Decreases “good,” or protective, cholesterol
- Increases risk of blood clots
- Increases atherosclerosis, a buildup of fat in veins and arteries
The Lungs and Pulmonary System
The pulmonary effects of cigarette smoking are the most well-known and perhaps the most devastating. Smoking is a primary cause of emphysema, bronchitis and lung cancer, and smokers are over 10 times likelier to die from COPD than those who don’t smoke.
The CDC has noted over 5,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, including these components that are known to cause various types of cancers:
- Chromium VI
The tars in smoke leave a sticky residue that clogs lungs exasperates asthma and pulmonary disorders, and makes physical activity increasingly difficult. Cigarette smoking is associated with 90 percent of lung cancer cases reported.
In addition to causing bad breath, most smokers report other negative smells associated with smoking. This includes a smell in hair, clothing, and homes. Smokers report that this impacts both professional and personal areas negatively.
Problems for the Whole Body
It is clear that smoking causes major problems for all the significant organs in the body. It is a significant contributor to heart disease, multiple forms of cancer, lung diseases and problems, and immune system deficiencies. Cigarette smoking impacts the whole body from the first inhale and continues to cause physical problems throughout a smoker’s life. The only way to truly mitigate these health problems is to quit smoking completely.