6 Side Effects of Tobacco
Toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your brain, heart, and other organs within 10 seconds after your first puff. Smoking is harmful to practically every aspect of your body and raises your risk of developing a variety of ailments. Smoking impacts how you look and feel, as well as your finances and the people in your life22.
Below are six main side effects of tobacco:
1 - Tobacco and the Heart
By altering your blood chemistry, smoking cigarettes can potentially cause cardiovascular disease. By smoking, we increase our chances of increasing plaque, a waxy substance composed of cholesterol, scar tissue, calcium, fat, and other material, which can build up in your arteries, the primary blood channels that deliver blood from your heart to your body, as a result of these changes in blood chemistry23. Atherosclerosis is a disease that results from plaque formation24.
It becomes more difficult for blood cells to pass through arteries and other blood vessels to reach essential organs like the heart and brain when chemicals in cigarette smoke develop atherosclerosis and thicker blood in the arteries. This can cause blood clots, which can result in a heart attack, stroke, or even death25.
2 - Tobacco and the Lungs
Tobacco smoking is a substantial risk factor for lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease26. Tobacco wreaks havoc on your lungs’ airways and little air sacs. This harm begins as soon as a person begins smoking, and it worsens as long as the person continues to smoke. Even so, it may take years for the condition to become obvious enough to be diagnosed with lung disease27.
Tobacco damage to the lungs can lead to long-term lung disorders including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Tobacco can also raise the risk of lung infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis, as well as exacerbate some lung illnesses like asthma28.
3 - Tobacco and Cancer
Cigarette smoke contains harmful compounds that damage our entire body, not just our lungs. Our bodies are built to withstand a certain level of damage, but they often cannot handle the amount of dangerous substances found in cigarette smoke29.
Smoking and cancer are inextricably linked. It is responsible for at least 15 different cancers, including two of the most frequent, lung and bowel cancer. Mouth, pharynx (upper throat), nose, sinuses, larynx (voice box), esophagus (food pipe), liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, ovary, bladder, cervix, and some types of leukemia are among the other malignancies induced by smoking30.
The following are the most well-known cancer-causing mechanisms associated with cigarette smoking:
- Carcinogen exposure (cancer-causing chemicals)
- The development of covalent connections between carcinogens and DNA (DNA adduct formation)
- The accumulation of persistent somatic mutations in key genes
Somatic mutations cause clonal proliferation and, as a result of the accumulation of further mutations, cancer development 31.
4 - Tobacco and Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy and congenital malformations in infants have been related to maternal smoking during pregnancy and exposure to an environment exposed to tobacco, as well as other pregnancy problems, such as hemorrhage and premature placenta detachment32.
After a child is born, they are still vulnerable to the consequences of smoking, whether via inhaling tobacco as a secondhand smoker or being breastfed by a smoking parent33. Childhood asthma, bronchiolitis, and glue ear are all linked to exposure to tobacco34. It is well established that breathing and sleeping in a smoky environment increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome35. Furthermore, there is evidence that tobacco exposure causes neurological abnormalities in youngsters, which leads to worsened academic performance36.
5 - Tobacco and the Skin
It has also been related to skin aging prematurely, an increase in infections, and a delay in wound healing, among other diseases37. Furthermore, most inflammatory skin illnesses affect tobacco smokers more severely than nonsmokers38, and smokers often respond to therapy less well than nonsmokers.
Yellowing of the fingers and nails, tooth discoloration, and even a black hairy tongue are all short-term effects of smoking tobacco on the skin and mucous membranes. Dry skin, uneven skin pigmentation, baggy eyes, a drooping jawline, and deeper facial wrinkles and furrows are just a few of the long-term consequences40.
6 - Tobacco and costs
The economic costs of smoking are extraordinarily significant, according to evidence from the last two decades. For instance, in 2019, the top tobacco corporations in the United States spent $8.2 billion on advertising cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. This is around $22.5 million per day or approximately $1 million per hour41.
Nonetheless, existing estimates frequently leave out key types of expenditures, which should be equally recognized, such as costs associated with secondhand smoke exposure, costs associated with maternal tobacco use during pregnancy, a lack of spending on education and food as a result of smoking-related costs crowding out investments, the costs of fires caused by smoking, and, finally, environmental damage from tobacco production and manufacture42.
In short, the most preventable cause of death is tobacco smoking. Generally, smoking has been linked to poor general health and higher healthcare consumption and costs. As such, heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer are more common in smokers than in non-smokers43.
Also read to know more on the health benefits of quitting smoking, here.
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- 22 https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/smoking-and-tobacco/about-smoking-and-tobacco/what-are-the-effects-of-smoking-and-tobacco
- 23 https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/health-effects-tobacco-use/how-smoking-affects-heart-health#:~:text=FDA%20Tobacco&text=This%20plaque%20buildup%20can%20lead,like%20the%20heart%20and%20brain
- 24 https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/sites/default/files/media/docs/Fact_Sheet_Know_Diff_Design.508_pdf.pdf
- 25 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health. Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease Fact Sheet. Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health 50th. Anniversary. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/50th-anniversary/pdfs/fs_smoking_CVD_508.pdf
- 26 McRobbie, H., & Kwan, B. (2021). Tobacco use disorder and the lungs. Addiction, 116(9), 2559-2571.
- 27 https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/health-risks-of-tobacco/health-risks-of-smoking-tobacco.html
- 29 https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/smoking-and-cancer/how-does-smoking-cause-cancer
- 30 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53010
- 32 Robinson, J., & Kirkcaldy, A. J. (2009). ‘Imagine all that smoke in their lungs’: parents' perceptions of young children's tolerance of tobacco smoke. Health education research, 24(1), 11-21.
- 33 Mascola, M. A., Van Vunakis, H., Tager, I. B., Speizer, F. E., & Hanrahan, J. P. (1998). Exposure of young infants to environmental tobacco smoke: breast-feeding among smoking mothers. American Journal of Public Health, 88(6), 893-896.
- 34 Rushton, L., Courage, C., & Green, E. (2003). Estimation of the impact on children’s health of environmental tobacco smoke in England and Wales. The journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, 123(3), 175-180.
- 35 Brooke, H., Gibson, A., Tappin, D., & Brown, H. (1997). Case-control study of sudden infant death syndrome in Scotland, 1992-5. Bmj, 314(7093), 1516.
- 36 Yolton, K., Dietrich, K., Auinger, P., Lanphear, B. P., & Hornung, R. (2005). Exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and cognitive abilities among US children and adolescents. Environmental health perspectives, 113(1), 98-103.
- 37 Vander Straten, M., Carrasco, D., Paterson, M. S., McCRARY, M. L., Meyer, D. J., & Tyring, S. K. (2001). Tobacco use and skin disease. Southern medical journal, 94(6), 621-621.
- 38 https://www.aocd.org/page/Smoking#:~:text=Short%2Dterm%20effects%20of%20smoking,deeper%20facial%20wrinkles%20and%20furrows
- 39 Morita, A. (2007). Tobacco smoke causes premature skin aging. Journal of dermatological science, 48(3), 169-175.
- 40 https://www.aocd.org/page/Smoking#:~:text=Short%2Dterm%20effects%20of%20smoking,deeper%20facial%20wrinkles%20and%20furrows
- 41 https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/reports/federal-trade-commission-cigarette-report-2019-smokeless-tobacco-report-2019/cigarette_report_for_2019.pdf
- 42 https://tobacconomics.org/files/research/523/UIC_Economic-Costs-of-Tobacco-Use-Policy-Brief_v1.3.pdf
- 43 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.
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