Around 443,000 Americans die each year due to complications caused by cigarette smoking. The smoke of a cigarette contains more than 7000 chemicals, 70 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking tobacco and inhaling its vapors have adverse effects on the body. They contribute to many life-threatening conditions including emphysema, asthma, lung cancer and COPD. In addition, smoking is also related to mental health issues. Research shows that people who have schizophrenia or chronic depression are prone to smoking.
Even as you read this, hundreds of kids and teens are experiencing their first cigarette. So this article aims to enhance your understanding of smoking and its truly destructive effects on the human body. We would throw light on the outcomes of tobacco smoking on major body systems.
The Respiratory System
The respiratory system comprises chiefly of lungs and other associated structures involved in gaseous exchange. When we inhale air, it travels through our nostrils into the larynx. From there, it progresses through a longer passageway called the air tube or the trachea. The trachea bifurcates in the middle of the chest into two main bronchi, each of which enters a lung. The air passes through bronchioles that are tubes only 1mm in diameter. Finally, the air enters the air sacs or alveoli. This is the site of gaseous exchange.
The alveoli are in close contact with a huge network of capillaries. Carbon dioxide from the blood seeps in the lungs. Alternatively, oxygen from the lungs diffuses into the blood. This is how the lungs take in oxygen and contribute to its supply to the body.
Increased Mucus Production
Certain cells in the lungs produce mucus. This mucus serves to bind to harmful bacteria and eliminate them. When a person smokes, the size and number of mucus-producing cells in his lungs rise. More and more mucus is synthesized. Thus, his vessels become clogged with mucus. Gases can’t move steadily and smoothly any longer. Therefore, he feels irritated while breathing and may produce a wheezing sound.
Smoking And Weakening Of Cilia
The lungs have a substantial quantity of cilia that propel the air in a certain direction. Cilia are broom-like projections that have a beating motion. They free the air of any foreign particles that are dangerous to the body. Actually, they help us breathe without irritation or discomfort.
When a person smokes, the swift movement of his cilia becomes slower. Even a single cigarette slows down the to-and-fro motion of the cilia. In chain smokers, the total number of cilia in the lungs falls considerably. As a result, their ability to breathe comfortably is affected. They may suffer from frequent coughing, wheezing and spitting out mucus. They are also more prone to lung diseases such as colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and emphysema.
Lung cancer is the most fatal consequence of smoking. According to statistics, it affects one in every fifteen men and one in every seventeen women. Lung cancer has more fatalities to its credit than do colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers combined.
The Digestive System
The digestive system consists of a long tube that passes from the floor of your mouth all the way to your anus. This tube is called the digestive tract or the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). It is made up of hollow organs that are the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus.
Food enters your mouth and travels across this long tube to your stomach. Here, it is digested and converted into energy-producing nutrients. Additional structures include the pancreas, liver and gall bladder. The digestive system extracts nutrients out of the food you eat. These nutrients energize you for your daily activities and help you grow and fight disease.
Smoking exerts a negative influence on your digestive system. It increases the risk of cancers of the stomach, pancreas, mouth, and esophagus. It also contributes toward cancer in the colon, liver, and rectum but these are less common.
Other disorders of the digestive system that are linked to smoking are:
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
- Peptic ulcers
- Crohn’s disease
- Colon polyps
The Circulatory System
The circulatory system is composed of a central organ called the heart and associated arteries and veins. The arteries carry oxygenated blood from the heart and supply it to all the living cells in your body. After supplying the tissues, the blood becomes deoxygenated. This deoxygenated blood is carried back to the heart via the veins.
Since the blood is rich in respiratory gases and nutrients (electrolytes, enzymes, clotting factors, hormones, and amino acids), the circulatory system is responsible for the transport of gases and other vital substances. It helps fight disease, stabilize body temperature and maintain internal conditions of the body. Henceforth, it is crucial that you live a healthy lifestyle free of any smoke that may harm the lining of vessels.
Smoking And Atherosclerosis
Smoking tobacco can lead to the build-up of plaque in your blood vessels. This plaque is called an atheroma. This mass in your arteries can hinder the smooth flow of blood. It can upset the proper oxygenation of peripheral tissues. This condition accompanied by fatigue and muscle weakness is called atherosclerosis.
Smoking And Heart Disease
Tobacco contains nicotine. Nicotine constricts blood vessels. When the blood vessels narrow, blood pressure automatically rises. Higher values of blood pressure are unhealthy. They can cause angina which is chest discomfort and pain. If you have angina, it means that you are at an increased risk of heart attack and cardiac death.
The Integumentary System (Skin)
The integumentary system comprises of the skin and associated appendages such as the hair and nails. These structures serve to protect the body against extreme weathers. In addition to making the skin resilient, they also provide outlets for sebum and sweat. They protect the underlying organs and regulate body temperature. The skin also has a wide range of sensory receptors to detect pain, cold, heat, pressure, touch and other sensations.
Like other systems of the body, smoking wreaks havoc on the integumentary system as well. We enlist the main dermatologic hazard of tobacco use below:
- Smoking causes hair loss and grayness.
- It makes the skin dry and less elastic.
- It can induce precocious skin aging, wrinkling and arsenic-induced skin lesions.
- Smoking is linked to an increased incidence of psoriasis and dermatitis.
- Tar in cigarettes stains teeth and fingernails.
The Immune System
The immune system is made up of a bunch of tissues that dight invading organisms and minimize their harmful effects in the body. The immune mechanism of the body can be rightfully compared to the defense forces of a state. The cells (soldiers) of the immune system release antibodies (put on armor) when a foreign pathogen enters the body. This system is vital to maintaining the internal balance of the body. It keeps a check on all the other systems, combating disease and reducing the effects of external hazards.
Smoking takes its toll on the immune system as well. Some of the ways in which tobacco consumption influences the immunity are:
- Smoking tobacco can interrupt immunological homeostasis and obstruct the normal pathway of immune responses.
- Cigarette smoking is known to boost autoimmunity but at the same time, it slows down response to particular infections. The overall outcome of tobacco use is deleterious rather than beneficial.
- Smoking for years and decades actually robs you of your natural ability to fight off cancer. This is because the immune system controls abnormal growth and production of cells.
- A great deal of smoking can increase your risk of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus erythematosus.
The Reproductive System
As already discussed, smoking causes the walls of blood vessels to thicken. It hinders the smooth flow of blood through vessels and may lead to atherosclerosis. During sexual activity, men depend on the continuous blood supply to their sexual organ to perform well. Otherwise, they suffer from erectile dysfunction. This is why erectile dysfunction is more common among smokers. It has become such a significant problem that doctors now consider erectile dysfunction as a condition brought on by smoking. Even secondhand smoke interferes with healthy erections.
Smoking While Pregnant
Smoking is no less than poison for pregnant ladies as well as their unborn children. It has the following adverse effects on fetuses as well as kids after they are born:
- Women who smoke during pregnancy are at a higher risk of suffering from a miscarriage.
- Smoking causes many neural tube defects among children. Neural tube defects are those deformities that occur during the first month of pregnancy. These affect the spine, spinal cord and brain. Examples of neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly. Children may have NTDs have lower IQs, blindness, deafness, urinary and bowel control problems and lack of consciousness.
- There is ample evidence that establishes the link between smoking and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Smoking can cause problems with the placenta. The placenta is the structure that provides the baby with food, oxygen, and nutrients. Smoking can cause the placenta to be detached from the womb earlier than normal. This will result in bleeding and other complications.
- Women who smoke during pregnancy tend to give birth to babies with low birth weight and weak immune systems. These children, even as adults, often face a lot of health issues.
Smoking And Nicotine Dependence
The nervous system is responsible for receiving sensations, interpreting them and then causing appropriate responses. This system involves
- Receptors such as pain receptors in the skin that acknowledge changes in the environment
- Neurons that carry messages to and from the brain
- Effectors that express responses
Smoking can bring about a lot of negative changes in our nervous system.
Speaking from a biobehavioral perspective, smoking is very addictive. Actually, it is the nicotine in cigarettes that is highly habit-forming. When you smoke, it takes 7-10 seconds for the nicotine to reach the brain. Once there, it triggers a series of chemical changes. Due to these chemical reactions, the smoker feels delighted and gleeful. This feeling of pleasure is however short-lived. After a while, the effects of nicotine fade away. The smoker feels agitated and frustrated. To lighten up his mood, he lights another cigarette. And thus continues the cycle of nicotine dependence.
Owing to the wide range of symptoms that accompany nicotine withdrawal, people find it almost impossible to quit smoking. For instance, women who try to give up smoking experience intense mood swings and abrupt weight gain.
The Bottom Line
The effects of cigarette smoking vary from person to person, depending on the number of cigarettes a person smokes in a day as well as their personal habits. But smoking causes deleterious and irreversible changes to the human body. In addition to other harmful chemicals, it contains nicotine that is the chief culprit in this scenario. Nicotine has the potential to waste away almost every body part. It can make a person slave to his cigarette addiction. It accumulates in the vessels, increasing the risk of heart diseases. Breathing becomes troublesome and unpleasant. It lowers sex drive and brings about mood swings. In a nutshell, smoking cigarettes regularly is like killing yourself slowly.
If you are a smoker and find withdrawal challenging, please visit your doctor at the earliest. You can also join a Support Group in your area that brings people who are trying to give up smoking together. STOP putting yourself into destruction with your own hands every day. Try again, again and again to stop smoking until you succeed and create a vibrant, joyous life for yourself.