The most publicized risk of smoking is that it causes cancer. Smokers see graphic images of lung and oral cancers on cigarette packs every day. No doubt, cancer caused by smoking kills many every year! But, there are other common diseases in which smoking is a major aggravating factor. In fact, the three major causes of smoking-related deaths are atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

How bad is smoking? As per WHO, research suggests that people who start smoking in their teens (as more than 70 percent do) and continue for two decades or more will die 20 to 25 years earlier than those who never light up.

So, lead us find out about all the ill effects of smoking and how quitting helps in these:

Ill effects of smoking

Here is a list of important ill effects of smoking:

Smoking and cancer:

Cigarette smoking is a causative factor in not only lung cancer but also cancers of head and neck (lips, mouth, tongue, food pipe, nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses), stomach, liver, kidney, urinary tract, uterine cervix in women and penis in men

Smokers are some 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers. People who both drink and smoke are 15 times more likely to get cancer of mouth and head and neck

Smoking and heart disease/CVD

It increases chances of getting high blood pressure, bad blood lipids, higher tendency of clotting in blood etc. All of these are the feeding factors leading to heart attack, stroke, chronic kidney diseases or diseases of blood supply in legs. No wonder, doctors rate smoking as the number one preventable cause of heart disease!

It causes the incidence of heart attack, stroke, leg gangrene or kidney disease. Not only that, in people who continue to smoke after the first episode of heart attack or stroke, the incidence of repeat attacks is much higher than those who quit

In fact, data shows that smoking can be attributed 10% of all CVD deaths worldwide and a whooping 1/3rd of CVD deaths in the USA !

Smoking and lung disease/ breathing difficulty

This is one of the most under advertised, yet, strongest ill effects of smoking. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), which has a steeply progressive course leading to lung failure with 1-2 decades, is nearly always caused by smoking.

Not only that, smoking cessation is the most effective treatment in COPD, even better than all drugs combined.

In other lung problems, such as asthma, smoking worsens the problem considerably

Smoking and respiratory tract infections

Smokers get more episodes of common cold, flu, some kinds of  pneumonia and even TB of the lung than non smokers. This could possibly be due to impaired mucosal defense and deficiency of protective vitamins such as vitamin C.

Smoking and bone health problems

It accelerates bone loss and is a risk factor for hip fracture, both in men and women. Quitting smoking  can reverse loss of bone mineral density and decrease the excess risk of hip fracture.

Smoking and stomach/duodenal ulcer

Smoking increases the incidence of infection with H Pylori, which is a bacteria that leads to ulcers in stomach and duodenum. It also makes clearing the bacteria with drugs more difficult, thus leading to higher chance of ulcers

Smoking and reproductive risks

Smoking is associated with subfertility in both men and women. In men, it can lead to erectile dysfunction and reduced sperm count. Whereas in women, smoking during pregnancy can lead to abortion, pregnancy outside the womb (in the ovarian tubes) and problems in growth of the baby in the womb.

In women, smoking can lead to early menopause which has bad effect on bone health and leads to poor quality of life sometimes

Smoking and diabetes

Diabetes is itself a major risk factor for CVD or heart disease. Smoking and diabetes have additive effect on this risk and thus chances of all complications of diabetes impacting retinal, kidney or heart are significantly higher in this group.

In smokers that do not have diabetes, chances of getting diabetes are higher than non smokers. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of getting diabetes over many years

Smoking and ageing (wrinkles and falling teeth)

Cigarette Smoking prematurely ages skin by wearing away proteins that give it elasticity, depleting it of vitamin A and restricting blood flow. Smokers’ skin is dry, leathery and etched with tiny lines, especially around the lips and eyes.

Smokers are one and half times more likely to lose their teeth. They also get the unsightly yellowing of teeth and plaques more commonly than smokers

Smoking and skin problems

Smokers seem to be more likely to develop psoriasis, a noncontagious inflammatory skin condition that leaves itchy, oozing red patches all over the

Smoking and vision and hearing problems

Smokers have a 40 percent higher rate of cataracts, the common disease causing clouding of the eye’s lens that blocks light and may lead to blindness. Also, smoking is associated with increased chance of  age-related macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina.

Smokers are more susceptible to hearing loss caused by ear infections or loud noise. They are also three times more likely than non-smokers to get middle ear infections.

To get a visual summary ( and shock) on this topic, visit : WHO smoker’s body 

Ready to quit? Check out : how to quit smoking successfully

Need some more persuasion? Read below !

How does quitting smoking reverse or reduce the bad effects of smoking?

Lung symptoms and disease

After 72 hours, breathing becomes easier. Bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase.

After 3-9 months, lung function improves by up to 10% and episodes of cough, wheezing and breathlessness go down. As we discussed above, quitting smoking is your best chance of preserving your lung functions if COPD has already set in and best way to prevent it, if it has not.

After 10 years of quitting, risk of lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker.

Heart symptoms and disease

Within two hours of not smoking, heart rate and blood pressure  return to almost normal levels. Within 2-12 weeks the blood circulation improves.

After 1 year, risk of heart disease is about half compared with a person who is still smoking. Where as, after 15 years risk of heart attack falls to the same as someone who has never smoked.