Health studies have shown that smoking can affect your heart as well as your lungs. Smoking also raises your risk of certain cancers. These are all good reasons to quit.
Smoking has been linked with many serious illnesses. It also has been shown to increase signs of aging. A few of the health effects of smoking are listed below. Smoking can:
Increase your risk of lung cancer, bladder cancer, and cervical cancer.
Raise blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Reduce blood flow, which can slow healing and cause wrinkles.
In pregnant women, cause bleeding problems, miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth defects.
In men, cause problems with erections.
When you smoke, your breathing becomes shallow and your lungs fill with smoke. Smoking cigarettes also fills your body with chemicals, such as nicotine and tar.
Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide. This gas takes the place of oxygen in your blood.
This drug raises your blood pressure and heart rate. It reduces blood flow to your arms and legs, and slows digestion.
Tar is what's left after tobacco is smoked. This sticky brown material gums up your lungs, so less oxygen gets into your bloodstream.
Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 other chemicals, including formaldehyde, arsenic, and lead. Dozens of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.
Cigarette smoking causes 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. Smoking is also responsible for most cancers of the larynx, oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, and bladder. In addition, it is a cause of kidney, pancreatic, cervical, and stomach cancers, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
The health risks caused by cigarette smoking are not limited to smokers. Exposure to secondhand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), significantly increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease in nonsmokers, as well as several respiratory illnesses in young children. (Secondhand smoke is a combination of the smoke that is released from the end of a burning cigarette and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Environmental Health Science's National Toxicology Program, and the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have all classified secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen a category reserved for agents for which there is sufficient scientific evidence that they cause cancer. The U.S. EPA has estimated that exposure to secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers and is responsible for up to 300,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infections in children up to 18 months of age in the United States each year. For additional information on ETS, see the NCI fact sheet Environmental Tobacco Smoke, which can be found at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/ETS on the Internet.
Smoking cessation has major and immediate health benefits for men and women of all ages. Quitting smoking decreases the risk of lung and other cancers, heart attack, stroke, and chronic lung disease. The earlier a person quits, the greater the health benefit. For example, research has shown that people who quit before age 50 reduce their risk of dying in the next 15 years by half compared with those who continue to smoke. Smoking low-yield cigarettes, as compared to cigarettes with higher tar and nicotine, provides no clear benefit to health. For additional information on quitting smoking, see the NCI fact sheet Questions and Answers About Smoking Cessation, which can be found at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Tobacco/cessation on the Internet.