Smoking and its harms

By | 10 May 2021

Smoking and its harms

The harms of smoking to the body are too many to be counted. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4800 different substances, most of which are toxic and carcinogenic. If smoke is inhaled, these toxins are absorbed by the lungs and distributed throughout the body. Smoking is one of the most important risk factors for chronic non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Tobacco use not only increases the risk of respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, or cancer. It damages all organs and tissues in the body by reducing the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and disrupting the vascular structure. The damages of smoking briefly affect the whole body.

What are the physical harms of smoking?

Substances in cigarette smoke cause inflammatory reactions in the respiratory tract, irritate the bronchi, and increase the tendency for infection. It damages the self-cleaning mechanism of the respiratory tract. Complaints of respiratory distress, chronic cough, and sputum are frequently encountered in individuals who smoke regularly. Smoking of young people who have not completed their growing age slows down normal lung growth. It is also the leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In Austria, 90% of people with COPD are smokers or former smokers.

Smoking is one of the most important preventable causes of arteriosclerosis. Smoking prepares the ground for harmful plaque formation and vascular occlusion that prevent blood flow in blood vessels. It reduces the oxygen content of the blood and in this way affects the oxygenation of all organs. Smoking also causes an increase in LDL levels, which are harmful cholesterol in the blood, and excess LDL settles in the injured vessel walls. This facilitates the formation and narrowing of arteriosclerotic plaques in the vessels.

As a result, the incidence of heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease increases significantly. The risk of having a heart attack is about twice as high in smokers than non-smokers.

Smokers’ skin has a gray, pale and unhealthy appearance. Nicotine adversely affects skin health by weakening the blood circulation to the skin. Cigarette smoke also contains substances that damage skin cells. As a result, the skin becomes thinner, loses its elasticity, wrinkles early, and ages. Smoking also causes an increase in skin problems such as eczema or acne.

The tar contained in tobacco smoke causes yellowing of the teeth and unpleasant brown spots. Smoking makes the oral cavity suitable for the growth of some bacteria. The bacteria that multiply cause bad breath and tooth decay as well as gum diseases that can cause premature tooth loss. The decrease in the blood flow to the gums due to smoking and the suppression in the immune system also accelerates the formation of gingival problems.

Smoking negatively affects brain function by causing arteriosclerosis. There is an increased risk of stroke and brain hemorrhage in smokers. Smokers are twice as likely to die as a result of cerebral vascular occlusion or cerebral hemorrhage than non-smokers. Smoking weakens memory and negatively affects learning and logical thinking. Depression and Alzheimer’s risk are also increased in smokers.

Smoking and diabetes

Both smoking and uncontrolled diabetes damage blood vessels. In addition, the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke is significantly higher in diabetic patients who smoke. Good blood supply of their organs is extremely important, especially for diabetics, because only then is it possible to avoid various diabetic sequelae. For this reason, the damages of smoking are more in those with diabetes. Diabetic complications such as eye, kidney, and nerve damage are more common in smokers. The resulting damage increasingly affects the quality of life and can even lead to premature disability.

Diabetes patients should follow some special rules when quitting smoking. Because smoking can increase insulin resistance and therefore blood sugar. For this reason, insulin doses need to be adjusted when smoking is stopped. Also, nicotine withdrawal can cause symptoms reminiscent of low hypoglycemia. For this reason, diabetic patients who decide to quit smoking should get support from a specialist.

What are the sexual harms of smoking?

Regular smoking is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction (male erectile dysfunction). Vascular damage and consequently reduced blood flow to the penis are the cause of erectile dysfunction. In men who smoke, sperm quality also suffers.

In women, smoking affects estrogen balance. Smoking causes an increased risk of infertility, genital herpes, and cervical cancer in women. Smoking together with hormonal contraceptives increases the risk of thrombosis and cardiovascular disease.

Smoking harms during pregnancy

During pregnancy, nicotine passes from the mother’s bloodstream to the embryo through the placenta. Women who smoke during pregnancy are at high risk for pregnancy complications. Some of these complications are;

  • Low
  • Premature or stillbirth
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • It is in the form of early separation of the placenta.

Mothers who smoke during pregnancy have an increased risk of having a low birth weight baby. In newborn babies;

  • Low birth weight
  • Slowing in growth
  • Increased risk of sudden infant death

These children have a higher risk of the respiratory system, cardiovascular diseases in later periods.

Smoking and cancer
There are more than 90 carcinogenic substances identified in cigarette smoke. According to the researches, it is reported that approximately one-quarter of all cancer deaths are caused by the results of smoking. Smokers have twice the risk of cancer than non-smokers. Smoking is the most important preventable risk factor for cancer. Cancer risk is related to the starting age of smoking, the number of cigarettes consumed per day, and the duration of smoking. In turn, quitting smoking significantly reduces the risk.

Lung cancer is the most common cancer in smokers. Smoking is responsible for 60% of women and 90% of men in lung cancers. A person who smokes 20 cigarettes a day has a 15 times greater risk of lung cancer than someone who never smokes. Passive smoking also increases the risk of lung cancer.

In addition to lung cancer, smoking also increases the risk of different types of cancer, including:

  • Bronchial cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Nose and pharynx cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer

Suggestions for quitting smoking
It is an important addictive substance known for its harms and therefore the best thing is to never try it. No step is too late for current smokers, regardless of their age. Some suggestions for those who want to quit smoking are listed below:

  • Predetermining the first nicotine-free day and making a promise to yourself will make it easier for you to take the first step to quit smoking.
  • You can go one step further by avoiding anything that reminds you to smoke.
  • New and fun activities and hobbies that will distract you will help you with this.
  • Delicious drinks will help you reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • Rewarding yourself for your patients can make your steps more frequent.
  • Exercising gives you strength by releasing the happiness hormone.
  • You can get away from stress by pampering yourself with a healthy and delicious diet.
  • The positive perspective that sees withdrawal symptoms as a gateway to health and freedom will play a key role in your progress.
  • You can make your work easier with alternative medicine methods such as acupuncture.
  • If you feel in a very difficult situation despite everything, you can use nicotine gum and tape as a last resort.



The page content is for informational purposes only. Items containing information about therapeutic health services are not included in the content of the page. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment.