Smoking: Not Just Harmful to Your Lungs and Heart
How Cigarettes Affect Nearly Every Part of Your Body
by Annie Stuart
Cigarettes’ harmful claim to fame isn’t limited to your lungs, heart, or blood vessels. Did you know that smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the US? Nearly 450,000 deaths per year are associated with smoking. Smoking not only cuts lives short, but it greatly decreases quality of life.
Let's take a look at how smoking harms your body.
Smoking is a leading cause of many types of cancers. Exposure to the harsh chemicals in tobacco affect the all of the body's cells. Most cigarettes contain over 7,000 chemicals, including cyanide and formaldehyde. Nearly 70 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.
The list of smoking-related cancers includes:
Bones, Joints, and Muscles
By reducing blood supply, smoking weakens both muscles and bones. It also slows the production of bone-forming cells and keeps your body from absorbing calcium. Here are some of the effects:
Smoking hurts the digestive system, which means the body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs. Some digestive conditions which may be caused by smoking include:
Smokers notice the change in their brains almost the minute they light up. Smoking quickly changes brain chemistry, affecting mood and often leading to addiction. Brain chemistry changes, as well as decreased blood flow, increase the risk for:
Smokers are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Here are a few of smoking’s other effects:
And Now for the Good News
The benefits of quitting begin almost immediately. Your heart rate and blood pressure drop within minutes. Your circulation and breathing improve within weeks. And, among other improvements, your risk of stroke much lower after 5 years of quitting. Although it’s best to quit when you’re younger, you can benefit at any age.
American Cancer Society
American Lung Association
Canadian Cancer Society
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Smoking. American Diabetes Association website. Available at:
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Updated March 21, 2017. Accessed August 3, 2017.
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Smoking and musculoskeletal health. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Updated May 2010. Accessed August 3, 2017.
Smoking and the digestive system. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/smoking-digestive-system. Updated September 14, 2013. Accessed August 3, 2017.
Last reviewed August 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 8/15/2017
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