The effects of smoking on the body

We all know that smoking is bad for you, but you may not realise just how many negative effects smoking can cause. From premature aging to deadly diseases, smoking can affect nearly every system in your body in some way, from your heart to your skin.

Respiratory system
With every cigarette you are breathing in toxic substances that cause damage to your lungs.

A persistent cough, often referred to as a ‘smoker’s cough,’ is a common side effect of smoking. A recent study from the University of Catania describes how cigarette smoke contains a number of substances that are toxic to the hair-like structures in the lungs, called cilia, and can lead to increased mucus production. The damaged cilia cannot move the excess mucus as effectively, causing a persistent cough as the body tries to clear the lungs.

The purpose of the mucus is to trap harmful viral and bacterial pathogens which could cause infection and move them out of the body. When this mucus cannot be cleared these pathogens remain, making smokers more likely to develop respiratory infections. You can read more about this study in our post ‘Switching to vaping restores lungs defence against infection.’

Long-term damage to the lungs can develop into chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the British Lung Foundation, COPD describes a group of lung conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which cause breathing difficulties due to narrowing of the airways. These diseases make it harder for the lungs to take in oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide, resulting in breathlessness, coughing, and wheezing.

Tobacco smoke contains a number of known carcinogens; these are substances that damage the DNA in your cells, which can lead to the formation of cancerous tumours. Information from the NHS reveals that smoking is the cause of 70% of all cases of lung cancer and can cause cancer in many other parts of the body, such as the mouth, bowel, stomach, and pancreas.

Cardiovascular system
Smoking is extremely harmful to your cardiovascular system, from an immediate increase in heart rate and blood pressure, to long-term damage which can lead to a number of life-threatening diseases.

According to the British Heart Foundation, smoking can lead to an increase in blood clots, and ‘make the walls of your arteries sticky. This causes fatty material to stick to the walls. The fatty material can begin to clog your arteries and reduce the space for blood to flow properly.’

This build-up of fatty material is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease, and a blockage in a major artery can have serious implications such as a heart attack or stroke.

The Heart Research Institute UK advises that ‘the risk of heart attack is up to four times greater and the risk of stroke up to two times greater for smokers.’

Reproductive system
People often talk about the many diseases smoking causes, but you may not be aware that it can also have an impact on fertility in both men and women.

A review from Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reports that ‘research has established beyond doubt that smoking can have a negative impact on female fertility’ and that it takes longer for a woman who smokes to conceive than a non-smoker. It has also been found that smoking can lead to early menopause, with menopause occurring up to two years earlier in women who smoke.

In men, smoking has been linked to erectile dysfunction, impotence, and a reduced sperm count. ASH report that ‘even light smoking is associated with reduced male fertility.’

According to Cancer Research UK, cigarette smoke contains at least 70 chemical known to cause cancer, and is a known cause of both cervical and ovarian cancer. Smoking also increases your risk of developing cancer in many other parts of the body, such as your liver, stomach, kidneys, pancreas, bowel, bladder, and can even cause some types of leukaemia.

Eyes, mouth and skin
It is no secret that smoking can leave behind tell-tale signs like yellow fingers and teeth, and the persistent smell of smoke that lingers in your clothes and hair. But it can also have more lasting effects on your face, mouth, and eyes.

Many smokers will be aware that smoking can dull your sense of taste and smell, but these are not the only two senses that smoking can influence.

Information from the Royal Free Hospital London reveals that smokers are twice as likely to lose their eyesight compared to non-smokers. Smoking can cause a number of eye problems, including making you more likely to develop cataracts and macular degeneration, both of which can result in blindness.

Smoking can also take a toll on your oral health, causing issues like mouth sores, ulcers, and gum disease. Information from the Queen Victoria Hospital reports that ‘smoking tobacco causes a lack of oxygen in your bloodstream, leading to infected gums not being able to heal. Smoking causes gum disease to progress faster than in non-smokers. Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.’

According to a review from ASH, smoking can cause the skin to age prematurely, losing its elasticity and taking on a greyish tone. This causes an increase in wrinkles around the mouth and eyes, with one study from the American Council on Science and Health describing how ‘smokers in their 40s often have as many facial wrinkles as non-smokers in their 60s.’

What are the benefits of quitting smoking?
The benefits of quitting smoking can be seen as quickly as 20 minutes after your last cigarette, when your heart rate and blood pressure will start to return to normal. Remaining smoke-free will help your body recover from the exposure to harmful substances and can even reverse some of the damage smoking has done to your body.

Many people find they have more energy and a better mood after quitting smoking, and breathing becomes easier, letting you become more active.

According to information from the NHS, after a year of not smoking your risk of heart attack has halved, your lung function has increased by up to 10% and your circulation has improved. Quitting smoking also improves fertility in both men and women and can boost your sex drive. Learn more about the benefits of quitting smoking in our post ‘Stop for good, not just October 2021’.

If you are considering a quit attempt and would like to find out how an e-cigarette could help pop in to your local Evapo store or head over to our blog.The American Cancer Society identify being a smoker as putting you at higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a type of skin cancer, especially around your lips. SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer, and can cause scaly, red patches of skin, open sores or warts to form on the skin. Smoking also increases your risk of developing mouth, throat, larynx, and oesophagus cancer.


At a glance
·Smoking causes around 7 out of every 10 cases of lung cancer (70%) and can cause cancer in many other parts of the body

·Smoking damages your heart and blood circulation, increasing your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke

·Smoking damages your lungs which can lead to conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and can worsen respiratory conditions such as asthma and respiratory tract infections like the common cold