At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it is well-known that smoking cigarettes or inhaling secondhand smoke can lead to a myriad of health problems down the line. If you still need convincing, read on to learn about how smoking directly affects different parts of your body and your physical appearance.
Ironically, while smoking a cigarette may look “cool” when you’re relaxing, it is actually making you less physically attractive with every puff. Studies show that smoking causes premature sagging and wrinkling of the skin, so that smokers can look about 1.5 years older than nonsmokers. Since smoking also decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood, the skin also takes on a gray, ashen tone, replacing the natural glow or blush of healthy skin. It also slows down the wound healing process, so unsightly scars and stretch marks can become more prominent.
When you puff a cigarette, you are doing much damage to the oral cavity. Cigarette smoking can stain the teeth a mottled black, brown a yellow as it leaves a film over the teeth with every puff due to nicotine. It also causes vertical wrinkles around the lips (see the “skin” section), aging it instantly. Furthermore, the ammonia and formaldehyde in the cigarette smoke inflames the membranes of the mouth, causing the risk of oral cancer to skyrocket. In addition, nobody likes spending time talking to someone who has stale, sour-smelling post-cigarette breath.
Body Weight & Fat
Contrary to popular belief, smoking can actually make you fatter. According to studies conducted by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, heavy smokers tend to have greater body weight than nonsmokers. Smoking can cause insulin resistance, an important hormone that regulates body fat storage. The fact that smokers cannot breathe smoothly can also lead to a decrease in exercise and a sedentary lifestyle, hence making it difficult to shed pounds.
When you inhale a mouthful of cigarette smoke, you are literally killing off the cilia in your airways. Cilia are the hair cells in your throat that helps the airway expel mucus or irritants, so without them, the smoker would be coughing away nonstop at all the mucus buildup in the throat due to the irritants from the smoke. Not only do the risks of esophageal, throat, mouth, and lung cancer increase dramatically, the lung’s ability of getting oxygen for the body also decreases. Lastly, cigarette smoke coats the walls of lungs with tar (yes, the stuff we pave roads with!), and it can take 10 years or for the body to neutralize the substance.
Heart & Blood
Since the lungs cannot get adequate oxygen to flow through the body, the heart works harder to get what little oxygen there is throughout the body. The blood pressure and rate also increases. Elevated CO2 levels in the blood also causes cholesterol deposits on the blood vessel walls, so clotting is more frequent, and the blood becomes stickier and less fluid. Hence, heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening cardiovascular problems can easily become a reality with smoking.
The amount of toxins and carcinogens in cigarette smoking causes the body to go into “alert mode,” which results in internal inflammation everywhere. Stress hormones are secreted from the adrenal glands above the kidneys, increasing the blood pressure (hence the usual jolt of energy smokers receives). Your blood also goes into overdrive to try and rid the body of such toxins. Smoking also messes with insulin, an important metabolic hormone, so it also increases the risk of metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Although men and women have different sex organs, the damaging effects of smoking do not discriminate. Male smokers often report a higher rate of erectile dysfunction as well as lower sperm count with lower quality sperm; both conditions can lead to male infertility and decreased sexual satisfaction. As for women, smoking can significantly increase the risk of cervical cancer and breast cancer. The risk for sexually transmitted infections also increases significantly for both female and male smokers.
This may be lesser known, but smoking also leads to thinning hair and premature graying hair. The carcinogens in cigarette smoke can damage the DNA in hair follicles in both men and women. According to a study done in Taiwan in 2007, men who smoked were twice as likely to lose their hair and have premature balding that nonsmokers. Is your full head of hair really worth it for a few packs of cigarettes?
If the health harming aspects of smoking still do not move you, consider how smoking can physically affect your body and your looks. How about the financial aspects? Would you really want to spend all that money on teeth whitening, hair care, getting hair implants, or anti-aging skin plastic surgery, on top of all the money you are already spending on cigarettes? Hopefully this will motivate you to quit that “cancer stick”!