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How Smoking Affects Your Health

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Some of these harmful effects are immediate. Find out how smoking affects different parts of your body.

Physical Health

Overall Health and Life Span

  • Smokers take more sick days. They also have higher health care costs.
  • Insurers can charge tobacco users up to 50% more than people who don’t use tobacco.
  • Smoking can cut at least 10 years off your expected life span.
  • Smoking is the leading cause of premature, preventable death in this country.

Cancer

  • Smoking is the leading cause of cancer and death from cancer.
  • Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body. Like the lungs, throat, mouth, liver, breasts, colon, pancreas, and stomach.
  • Poisons in tobacco smoke can damage or change a cell’s DNA. DNA is the cell’s “instruction manual” that controls a cell’s normal growth and function. When DNA gets damaged, a cell can grow out of control and create a cancerous tumor.

Cardiovascular Disease

  • Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by two to four times.
  • Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of cardiovascular disease.
  • Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them get thick and narrow. This makes your heart have to beat faster, and your blood pressure goes up. Blood clots can also form.

Respiratory Disease

  • Smoking causes lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  • Tobacco smoke can trigger an asthma attack or make an attack worse.
  • Smokers are 12 to 13 times more likely to die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis—than nonsmokers.
When you quit smoking, any medications you are taking for other conditions may do their job better. Your whole body will thank you.

Wound Healing

  • Ingredients in tobacco can damage your blood vessels and decrease the amount of blood flowing to wounds. They can also decrease oxygen in your blood.
  • Smoking can decrease the strength of scar tissue and reduce the chance that skin grafts will be successful.
  • Smoking just one cigarette a day can have a negative effect on the body’s ability to heal.

Pain

  • Smoking can make some conditions more painful. This includes back pain, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, tooth and gum pain, and fibromyalgia.
  • Chemicals in cigarettes may relieve your pain for a bit. But when you’re done smoking, the pain will still be there. When you begin to feel withdrawal from nicotine, your pain can feel even worse.

Vision and Eye Problems

  • Chemicals in tobacco smoke can decrease blood circulation and oxygen flow to the eyes. This can cause a variety of vision and eye problems.
  • Smoking causes dry eye syndrome. That can cause blurry vision, eye stinging, and contact lens discomfort.
  • Smoking causes macular degeneration disease, which triggers damage to the retinas that can’t be undone. It’s a leading cause of blindness.

Women’s Health

  • Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can make it more difficult to get pregnant.
  • Smoking can cause ectopic pregnancy. This happens when a fertilized egg implants somewhere in the abdomen other than the uterus.
  • Smoking during pregnancy causes miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, and birth defects.

Mental and Emotional Health

  • Smoking can make it harder to fall asleep and worsen the quality of your sleep.
  • Smoking can increase your feelings of stress and anxiety. Plus, smoking can increase symptoms of depression.
  • When you smoke, certain medications used to treat depression and anxiety disorders don’t work as well.
  • For people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), smoking may make symptoms—like anxiety, re-experiencing, avoidance, and numbing—worse.

If you have PTSD, HIV, depression, or substance use disorders, smoking carries extra risks.

More For You

When you smoke, you harm your ability to exercise and be physically fit. Find out how smoking hurts your athletic performance.
Understand why you feel like you need to smoke. Find ways to avoid triggers and deal with withdrawal and cravings.
Some people use smoking as a way to cope with stress, but there are problems with using cigarettes to cope with unpleasant feelings.
Asking for help from people in your life can make a big difference. You’re not in this alone.