How Tobacco Harms Your Health
The health risks of smoking and using other forms of tobacco make up a long list. Find out what side effects you may be facing if you decide to smoke.
Short-Term Side Effects
Using tobacco can deliver feelings of relaxation at first, but its immediate physical effects are anything but that:
- Your heart rate increases
- Your breathing gets shorter and faster
- Your blood pressure goes up
Why these symptoms?
Smoking is the fastest way for nicotine (and other harmful substances in tobacco smoke) to enter your body. That’s because there’s a large amount of surface area in your lungs thanks to millions of tiny air sacs called alveoli. These alveoli are surrounded by blood vessels that act as the gateway to your bloodstream. Once absorbed, nicotine acts on the nervous system and heart to produce the symptoms listed above. See how a former tobacco scientist explains nicotine and addiction.
Long-Term Side Effects
Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, especially over a prolonged period. Below is an overview of some of the major health consequences.
- Studies have shown that smokers experience more stress overall than nonsmokers.
- Over time, smokers develop more nicotine receptors than nonsmokers, which may play a role in craving.
- Smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers.
- There are 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, and 70 of them are known to cause cancer.
- Smoking and using tobacco increases the risk for developing cancer of the lip, oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, larynx, lung, uterus, cervix, bladder and kidney.
- Approximately 90% of all lung cancer deaths are directly due to smoking.
- Smoking damages the DNA in your cells. This may cause abnormal cell growth which can lead to cancer.
- The addictive drug nicotine (present in all tobacco products) increases the amount of dopamine in your brain by mimicking the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.
- Dopamine is part of the reward pathway in your brain. When its levels are artificially increased by nicotine, you crave more of it to feel good.
- Adolescents are twice as likely to get addicted because the brain is not fully developed until the early to mid twenties.
- Smoking causes coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.
- Smoking approximately doubles a person’s risk of having a stroke.
- There is no evidence that smoking lower-tar or lower-nicotine cigarettes reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lung Disease & Respiratory Problems
- Smokers are much more likely to have upper and lower respiratory tract infections.
- The lungs of people who start smoking as teenagers may not fully grow.
- Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer of both men and women in the U.S.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third highest cause of death in the U.S., and 8 out of 10 cases are caused by smoking.
You might hear some people say that hookah or e-cigarettes are “safer” for you. See how they compare to other forms of tobacco.