Although the number of active smokers in the UK has dropped significantly in the last decade, 9 million Brits still smoke cigarettes regularly. It’s no secret that this isn’t good for your health, but the extent of the damage is truly sobering. Smoking is biggest cause of preventable deaths in England alone, accounting for more than 8,000 deaths a year. In fact, 50% of smokers will die from a smoking-related disease. Understanding the damage caused is one way to encourage smokers to kick the habit for good.
Smoking affects your… Lungs
Lungs top the list of most affected organs when it comes to smoking. And the infamous ‘smoker’s cough’ is just the start. 84% of deaths from lung cancer and 83% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are the direct result of smoking. Tobacco smoke can also cause other fatal diseases such as emphysema and pneumonia.
Poisons from the tar in your cigarettes make their way into your bloodstream when you smoke, and these poisons can consequently make your blood thicker, increasing the chance of clots. The result of clotting is that blood pressure and heart rate can increase as the arteries narrow. All of these factors increase your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
Smoking increases your risk of having a stroke by 50%, which in turn can lead to brain damage or even death. This is mainly because smoking increases your risk of having a brain aneurysm, caused by a weakness in the blood vessel wall. However, within five years of stopping smoking, a smoker’s risk of stroke is the same as that of a non-smoker.
The damage smoking causes to your blood circulation can in turn cause significant damage to your heart, increasing your risk of conditions like coronary heart disease, heart attack, peripheral vascular disease, cerebrovascular disease and stroke. Carbon monoxide from the smoke and nicotine also puts a strain on your heart by making it work at an increased rate. Your risk of experiencing a heart attack doubles when you smoke, but this risk is reduced by half after just one year of being smoke-free.
Mouth and Throat
Smoking may cause bad breath and stained teeth, but this is only the beginning of the problems in the mouth and throat. Gum disease is a common consequence of smoking, while cancers of the lips, throat, tongue and oesophagus are also widely seen in heavy smokers. In fact, 93% of oropharyngeal cancers (cancers of the throat) are caused by smoking.
For men, smoking can be a key cause of impotence. It can also damage sperm, reduce sperm count and lead to testicular cancer. Around 120,000 of UK men in their 20s and 30s are impotent due to smoking. For women, smoking can reduce fertility, with figures revealing that smokers are three times more likely to take over a year to conceive.
Smoking can make you more prone to acid reflux, as well as significantly increasing your chance of getting stomach ulcers and cancers. Research has also shown that if those who regularly smoke ten cigarettes a day are 1.5 times more likely to develop kidney cancer compared to a non-smoker.
Even bones can be affected by smoking, as smoking cigarettes causes the tissue of the bones to weaken and become brittle over time. This is more common in women, who are more likely to suffer from conditions like osteoporosis and therefore need to take extra care.