Cigarette smoking caused over 480,000 deaths each year. As the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US, smoking accounts for one in five deaths.
About 14 of every 100 US adults over the age of 18 are already smoking. That’s 34.2 million adults who are smoking and 15 million with a smoking-related disease.
Though you’ve probably heard people warn you about the dangers of smoking before, smoking does much more than hurt your lungs. Here are 10 dangers of smoking cigarettes you should consider before lighting up.
By reading this guide, you could save your own life, or someone else’s.
1. Lung Damage
When you breathe in smoke, the tobacco damages your airways and the small air sacs located in your lungs. Over time, your lung function will start to deplete as you continue smoking. In some cases, it can take years before the problem is noticeable.
In other words, you might not receive a lung disease diagnosis until it’s too late to treat.
Smoking can make an existing asthma or pneumonia condition worse, too. You might also develop another lung disease, like COPD.
COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD isn’t one disease, though. Instead, it’s a group of diseases that cause breathing and airflow problems.
For example, COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Though you can receive treatment for COPD symptoms, there’s currently no cure. Symptoms often include:
- Trouble taking in deep breaths
- Phlegm, sputum, or mucus
- Frequent coughing
- Shortness of breath
COPD was once the third leading cause of death in the US. About 50% of adults with low pulmonary function didn’t even realize they had COPD.
Tobacco smoke is one of the leading reasons COPD develops and progresses. If your lung function depletes, you might also experience:
- Difficulty working
- Depression or other mental conditions
- Other chronic diseases like coronary heart disease, asthma, stroke, congestive heart failure, or diabetes
- Confusion and memory loss
- Difficulty walking, climbing stairs, or completing other activities
You might need a portable oxygen tank to breathe, too.
In order to alleviate your symptoms, you’ll need to first start smoking. You might need to take medication and undergo pulmonary rehabilitation as well.
Chronic bronchitis is a form of COPD that develops when your airways are full of too much mucus. Your airways can become swollen and inflamed as you try to cough the mucus out.
There’s no cure for chronic bronchitis, though you can manage your symptoms by quitting smoking.
Another type of COPD, emphysema occurs when your lung sacs break down, making it more difficult for you to breathe. The sacs are responsible for getting oxygen into your blood. Smoking destroys these sacs, making it difficult for oxygen to reach your blood.
You could develop other conditions connected to weak lung function, such as pneumonia. Like other forms of COPD, there’s no cure for emphysema. The best course of action is to stop smoking and treat the symptoms.
2. Weakened Immunity
One of the dangers of smoking to your overall health is that it can weaken your immune system. Your immune system is responsible for fighting off illness and invaders. When your immune system is weak, it makes you more susceptible to illness.
One of the dangerous effects of smoking cigarettes includes its ability to compromise your immune system’s equilibrium. When your immune system isn’t balanced, your risk of developing immune and autoimmune disorders increases.
These conditions occur when your immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues after mistaking them for invaders.
Smoking could also cause rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease. This condition causes the immune system to attack the body’s joints. As a result, you’ll begin experiencing pain and swelling and have difficulty moving.
The various chemical compounds in cigarette smoke can interfere with your immune system to worsen existing conditions, too. These include:
- Crohn’s disease
- Bacterial meningitis
- Periodontal or gum disease
- Viral and bacterial infections
- Infections that develop after surgery
Quitting smoking can help reduce your risk of these conditions.
3. Heart Disease
The tobacco epidemic is one of the biggest health concerns across the world. In fact, it kills over 8 million people worldwide each year. One of the biggest dangers of smoking cigarettes is its ability to damage your heart.
The chemical compounds in cigarettes can cause plaque to buildup in your blood vessels. This process increases your risk of atherosclerosis. The build-up can make it difficult for blood to flow throughout your body.
Smoking cigarettes can also increase your chances of peripheral artery disease (PAD). This disease occurs when your arteries begin to narrow.
When blood can’t flow, it increases your risk of angina, blood clots, stroke, or even a heart attack.
4. Vision Problems
Smoking cigarettes can also cause problems with your vision to develop. In fact, smoking can also increase your risk of age-related macular degeneration, including cataracts.
You might also develop dry eyes, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy.
5. Fertility and Pregnancy Problems
Are you planning on having a baby soon? One of the dangers of occasional smoking is its impact on fertility.
For example, smoking can damage a female’s reproductive system. She might have a difficult time getting pregnant as a result.
The chemical compounds in cigarettes can impact hormone levels for men and women. In fact, smoking cigarettes can increase a man’s risk of erectile dysfunction. You can learn more about the causes of erectile dysfunction here.
By reducing the quality of a man’s sperm, smoking can reduce fertility, making pregnancy difficult.
Smoking can cause problems during pregnancy, too. For example, smoking can reduce a baby’s birth weight or cause preterm delivery. It can also damage the baby’s brains, lungs, and central nervous system during development.
The baby could also develop congenital abnormalities, such as cleft palate or lip, before they’re born.
6. Gum Disease
Your oral hygiene can have an impact on your overall health. If bacteria develop and spread, it could increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, or stroke.
People who smoke have an increased risk of developing gum disease. The more often you smoke, the more your risk increases. You could develop:
- Loose teeth
- Bleeding when brushing
- Swollen and tender gums
Smoking can also impact your ability to taste and smell. Over time, your teeth might stain yellow or brown, too.
Without treatment, gum disease can develop into periodontitis, which can cause bad breath, pain when chewing, and receding gums. The inflammation can become painful, too.
Quitting smoking and brushing twice a day can reduce your risk of gum disease.
7. Type 2 Diabetes Risk
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood sugar levels are too high.
When you eat, your body turns a type of sugar called glucose into energy. Your cells use this energy to function properly. Your pancreas creates insulin to ensure the glucose reaches your body’s cells.
When you have diabetes, however, your body will struggle to make and use insulin properly. When less glucose gets to your cells, it can cause a build-up in your blood.
People who smoke are 30 to 40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers. The more you smoke, the higher your risk will become.
Smoking with type 2 diabetes can cause complications, too. You might develop:
- Heart or kidney disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Reduced blood flow (which can cause ulcers and infections)
Without proper blood flow to the legs and feet, you might develop an infection that will require amputation.
8. Skin and Hair Health
One of the dangers of smoking cigarettes is its impact on your skin and hair. Smoking can cause premature aging to your skin. As collagen (a protein in the body) breaks down, your skin will become wrinkled.
Your risk of developing skin cancer will increase, too.
Smoking can also cause hair loss and balding over time. Your hair will likely smell like tobacco as well.
If you want to keep your hair looking young and smooth, it’s time to quit.
9. Risk of Other Cancers
Most people only associate smoking with lung cancer. Unfortunately, the dangers of occasional smoking include the development of other forms of cancer, too.
For example, people who smoke are three times as likely to get bladder cancer than non-smokers. Smoking also causes about 25% of all pancreatic cancers. You could increase your risk of developing stomach cancer, too.
Smoking can also increase your risk of:
- Cervical cancer
- Liver cancer
- Mouth cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Laryngeal cancer
- Colon cancer
- Throat cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Acute myeloid leukemia
Instead of leaving yourself at risk, learn when it’s time to quit.
10. Secondhand Smoke
The dangers of smoking aren’t solely yours to take on. Smoking can also impact your family members, co-workers, and friends.
Of the 8 million people who die from tobacco use, 600,000 are non-smokers who were exposed to secondhand smoke.
Breathing in secondhand smoke can raise a person’s blood pressure and damage their heart. It can also increase their risk of colds and ear infections. If they have asthma, their symptoms could also get worse.
The next time you light up, think about the other lives you’re impacting.
It’s Time to Quit: 10 Dangers of Smoking Ruining Your Health
It’s time to quit! Now that you know the dangers of smoking, think twice before picking up your next cigarette. Quitting now could help you live a long, healthy life without these potential risks.
Looking for more helpful tips and guides? Explore the Lifestyle section of the blog today.