You probably know about the relationship between smoking and lung cancer, but did you know smoking is also linked to heart disease, stroke, impotency and other chronic lung diseases? Smoking can also increase your risk for cancer of the bladder, throat and mouth, kidneys, cervix and pancreas. Thinking about quitting? Look at the facts!
Reproduction and fertility
Smoking can cause male impotence, as it damages the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. It can also damage sperm, reduce sperm count and cause testicular cancer. Men who smoke have a lower sperm count than those who are non-smokers.
For women, smoking can reduce fertility. One study found that smokers were over three times more likely than non-smokers to have taken more than one year to conceive. The study estimated that the fertility of smoking women was 72% that of non-smokers. Smoking also increases your risk of cervical cancer. People who smoke are less able to get rid of the HPV infection from the body, which can develop into cancer.
Smoking while you are pregnant can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and illness, and it increases the risk of cot death by at least 25%.
When you smoke, the toxins from cigarette smoke enter your blood. The toxins in your blood then: Make your blood thicker, and increase chances of clot formation. Increase your blood pressure and heart rate, making your heart work harder than normal. Narrow your arteries, reducing the amount of oxygen rich blood circulating to your organs. Together, these changes to your body when you smoke increase the chance of your arteries narrowing and clots forming, which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Smoking damages your heart and your blood circulation, increasing the risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease (damaged blood vessels) and cerebrovascular disease (damaged arteries that supply blood to your brain).
In fact, smoking doubles your risk of having a heart attack, and if you smoke you have twice the risk of dying from coronary heart disease than lifetime non-smokers.
Smokers have an increased chance of getting stomach cancer or ulcers. Smoking can weaken the muscle that controls the lower end of your gullet (oesophagus) and allow acid from the stomach to travel in the wrong direction back up your gullet, a process known as reflux.
Smoking is a significant risk factor for developing kidney cancer, and the more you smoke the greater the risk. For example, research has shown that if you regularly smoke 10 cigarettes a day, you are one and a half times more likely to develop kidney cancer compared with a non-smoker. This is increased to twice as likely if you smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day.
If you smoke, you are more likely to have a stroke than someone who doesn’t smoke. In fact, smoking increases your risk of having a stroke by at least 50%, which can cause brain damage and death. And, by smoking, you double your risk of dying from a stroke.
Your lungs can be very badly affected by smoking. Coughs, colds, wheezing and asthma are just the start. Smoking can cause fatal diseases such as pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer. Smoking causes 84% of deaths from lung cancer and 83% of deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease, including bronchitis.
Mouth and throat
Smoking causes unattractive problems such as bad breath and stained teeth, and can also cause gum disease and damage your sense of taste. The most serious damage smoking causes in your mouth and throat is an increased risk of cancer in your lips, tongue, throat, voice box and gullet (oesophagus). More than 93% of oropharangeal cancers (cancer in part of the throat) are caused by smoking.
Smoking can cause your bones to become weak and brittle. Women need to be especially careful as they are more likely to suffer from brittle bones (osteoporosis) than non-smokers.
Smokers aren’t the only ones affected by tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard for nonsmokers, especially children. Nonsmokers who have high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol have an even greater risk of developing heart diseases when they’re exposed to secondhand smoke.
Secondhand tobacco smoke contributes to about 34,000 premature heart disease deaths and 7,300 lung cancer deaths. Studies show that the risk of developing heart disease is about 25-30 percent higher among people exposed to environmental tobacco smoke at home or work. Secondhand smoke promotes illness, too. Children of smokers have many more respiratory infections than do children of nonsmokers.
These are just a few of the dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes; there are many more. But you do not have to spend the rest of your life giving in to your addiction! Thousands of people kick the habit every year, and you can be one of them. It may not be easy, but you can do it!