The effects of smoking can be found throughout a smoker’s body, and also throughout their life. From coughs to wrinkles, to impotence and eventually death, the effects of smoking highlight just how insanely self-destructive the habit is.
Life expectancy of a long term smoker can be reduced by 8-12 years.
Whilst the effects of smoking will eventually kill half of all smokers, not all deaths will be quick. They can commonly be drawn out for many suffering years. The carcinogenic chemicals in cigarette smoke increase the risk of cancer up to ten-fold for smokers, causing eighty percent of all lung cancer deaths. The cancerous effects of smoking also include the mouth, nose, throat, larynx, gullet, pancreas, bladder, cervix, blood or kidney.
The effects of smoking can also be seen in the everyday functioning of the smoker. Coughing can be caused by damage to the cilia – the tiny wispy hairs lining the lungs which help to clean the air and remove debris. Cigarette smoke is equivalent to shaving these the immensely helpful cilia, with coughing up the phlegm acting as a poor substitute! Arteries are narrowed from the vaso-constrictive properties of nicotine, which can reduce temperature in the hands and feet. Blood clots can also develop in the arteries of the heart, with a fatal heart attack being one of the more common effects of smoking.
The reason that the coronary arterioles block, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease develops is that the thick black tar and chemicals in cigarettes are just so incompatible with the human body. Fat levels in blood are increased by 200-400% with every single cigarette. A non-smoker would have to put on about 140 pounds in weight to have the same risk of mortality as a smoker!
Other more immediate effects of smoking can be found in the rapidly aging skin which wrinkles and greys, the smelly hair, the stinky breath, stinky clothes, and yellow teeth.
Effects of smoking on immunity and recovery
As well as the billions of pounds and dollars spent on smokers ruining their bodies, recovery is also prolonged with longer hospital stays and complications with operating. The effects of smoking on drugs are lesser known – the metabolism of pharmaceuticals is adversely affected by the many chemicals in cigarettes, often reduced to being useless. Wound healing is delayed, risk of infection is increased. Smokers are much more likely to end up in intensive care, and have post-operative complications. Because the carbon monoxide in smoking effects the oxygen uptake of blood, energy levels are reduced and oxygen isn’t able to reach the parts where it is most needed as fast as in a non-smoker.
Effects of Smoking on the mind
The effects of smoking nicotine are initially rewarding – at least they feel that way because nicotine mimicks chemicals in the reward pathways of the brain. However, because the reward feeling is pretend, the brain begins to get seriously knocked off balance. The whole point of emotions, rewards and stress levels are to remind the brain when you are doing something useful, constructive, dangerous, pointless etc. If you get a false reward – you are telling the brain that the action that led to that feeling is good, and worth doing again. So the effects of smoking are that smokers teach themselves to get stressed more often, to feel insecure, unaccepted, and useless!
The effects of smoking are similarly destructive on the self-image. Smokers quickly learn to see themselves as smokers, with all the negative associations becoming a part of their identity. This is one of the reasons that quitting is difficult.
Smokers often lose a sense of self-efficiacy as an effect of smoking. They know that they are addicted, that they are destroying their bodies, that they feel they need to smoke, that they can’t do anything about it. This loss of self-control is a depressing effect of smoking – which undermines the smokers inner strengths.
Chemical effects of smoking
The neuro-chemcial effects of smoking are the opposite to what most people believe. Many smokers will claim that it relaxes them – but the opposite is true. They only think it relaxes them because they associate the physical sensation of smoking to comfort, familiarity, and sitting or standing still for a moment. Nicotine is actually a stimulant, it speeds up the heart rate and increases blood pressure.
Sleep can also be effected by smoking, with many smokers finding disturbed sleep patterns and low energy levels the next day. More on sleep and smoking can be found here