Almost every organ in the body is harmed by smoking. It is the cause of many diseases and reduces the general health of smokers. If you quit smoking, your risk of developing smoking-related health conditions is lower and you could add years onto your life.
Smoking and death
Each year more than 77, 000 deaths in the UK are attributed to smoking. Many more are living with debilitating conditions that are caused by smoking.
Each year, there are more deaths due to smoking than alcohol, drug use and vehicle accidents.
Smoking is the cause of 90% of all deaths from lung cancer. It is also the leading cause for 80% of deaths from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). What’s more, smoking cigarettes is known to increase the risk of death from any cause for both men and women.
The increased health risks associated with smoking
Those who smoke are much more likely to develop lung cancer, heart disease and stroke when compared with nonsmokers.
Apparently, smoking increases your risk of heart disease or stroke by 2 to 4 times and lung cancer 25 times.
Overall, smoking causes poor health.
Cardiovascular disease and smoking
People who smoke have a greater risk of developing diseases that affect the blood vessels and the heart (cardiovascular disease).
Smoking causes coronary heart disease and stroke. These are among the leading causes of death in the UK. Even if you smoke no more than five cigarettes per day, you can still have early symptoms of cardiovascular disease. Smoking causes blood vessels to become thicker and narrower. This means that the heart has to beat faster and, therefore, there is an increase in blood pressure. It also means that blood clots could form.
A stroke has two causes. Either a clot blocks the blood from flowing to a part of your brain or a blood vessel either in the brain or around the brain bursts and bleeds.
It is also possible for blockages to occur elsewhere in the body, for example, they could reduce blood flow to your skin or legs.
Respiratory disease and smoking
Smoking causes lung disease because it damages airways and alveoli, which are small air sacs in your lungs.
There are many lung diseases that are caused by smoking. These include COPD, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Smoking also causes most lung cancers.
Smokers with asthma are much more likely to have much more frequent attacks or worse attacks than non-smokers.
Smokers who have COPD are 13 times more likely to die from it than those with the condition that don’t smoke.
Cancer and smoking
We know that smoking causes lung cancer but it also causes cancer elsewhere in the body including:
- Bladder cancer
- Blood cancer (acute myeloid leukaemia)
- Cervical cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Cancer of the oesophagus
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Cancer of the mouth (throat, tongue, tonsils, soft palate)
- Pancreatic cancer
- Stomach cancer
Other health risks associated with smoking
Smoking harms the whole body. For women, it can make it harder to get pregnant. It also affects the baby’s health both before birth and after birth. If a pregnant woman smokes, there is an increased risk of:
- Preterm delivery
- Low birth weight
- SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Clefts (lip or palate) in babies
For men, smoking can affect their sperm. It can reduce your fertility but also increases the risks of a baby having birth defects or miscarrying.
Smoking affects how healthy your bones are. Post-menopausal women who smoke have weaker bones when compared to women who have never smoked. Their risk of broken bones is also elevated.
Inside the mouth, smoking is a cause of poor gum heath and poor dental health. It is a known cause of tooth loss.
Smoking also increases your risk of developing cataracts in your eyes. This makes the lens of your eye cloudy and thus you will find it difficult to see. It also causes AMD (age-related macular degeneration). This is when a small spot near the centre of your retina is damaged. This is an important part of your eye as it is needed for your central vision.
Type 2 diabetes can also be caused by smoking and smoking also makes this condition harder to manage. Your risk of developing this condition is up to 40% higher than a non-smoker.
Smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis. In general, it can cause inflammatory effects on the body and decreases your immune function.
How quitting smoking can reduce risks
If you quit smoking, you will cut your cardiovascular risks. After stopping smoking, your risk of having a heart attack is greatly reduced. Between two to five years after stopping, your stroke risk could be similar to a nonsmoker’s.
Once you stop smoking, your risk of mouth, throat and bladder cancer drop to half after 5 years. As does your risk of developing cancer of the oesophagus.
Ten years on from quitting smoking, your risk of death by lung cancer is halved.