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Cigarette smoking is a common problem in India with the nation housing over 12% of the world’s smokers. The use of tobacco in the form of cigarettes or in its smokeless form is prevalent among all socioeconomic groups and ages. Even teenage and young population is being swayed towards this habit with little knowledge of its ill-effects, which are, of course, countless.

According to WHO, most smokers resort to their first cigarette within half an hour of waking up, which reflects the graveness of this habit. They are not just harming themselves but also those living along, as the effects of passive smoke on health are quite the same. 5 in 10 adults are exposed to second-hand smoke at home, which has detrimental effects on their health.

From respiratory disorders to oral and lung cancer, fertility issues, cardiovascular disorders and even neuronal damage, all are associated with the habit of cigarette smoking.

WHO suggests that 5 in 10 adults have at some point tried to quit this habit but have not been able to. Let’s give you a few reasons to ditch that smoke and never go back again.

  1. Benefits of quitting smoking
  2. Diseases and other disadvantages of smoking
  3. Smoking Effects on Teeth, Gums and Oral Health

Since the harmful effects of smoking are plenty, your body is likely to be benefitted when you quit. Here are all the positive changes your body will go through each minute:

  • Within the first 20 minutes, your heart rate, which was elevated due to chain smoking during the waking hours will fall down to normal.
  • Blood pressure also comes down almost immediately.
  • After an hour, carbon monoxide accumulated due to cigarette smoking will slowly drop.
  • Just two weeks forth quitting, your lung function will improve due to an improvement in ciliary activity.
  • Within a few days, your sense of smell and taste will improve. Food will start tasting better and you will begin to enjoy your meals thoroughly. Also, your appetite which was affected due to smoking will slowly improve. This is one of the biggest perks of quitting, other than obviously reducing the risk of a plethora of diseases.
  • You will also begin to smell and feel fresher.
  • Organ functioning like that of the kidney and the liver begins to improve within days of quitting.
  • After a month, your risk of heart attack begins to drop slowly.
  • Coughing will also diminish after a month. Breathing then improves and shortness of breath goes away. You will have a feeling of relief from most respiratory symptoms and will be able to breathe normally.
  • It will thus become easy to exercise and walk.
  • Almost a year after quitting, your risk of cardiac disorders will reduce to half. This is because the blood becomes thinner and circulates around the body with more ease. This will reduce the effort required by the heart to pump blood. Further, it will prevent clot formation, reducing the risk of these disorders.
  • Quitting will gradually lower the levels of cholesterol and fats in the body, which will slow down or prevent the buildup of new fatty deposits in the arteries. It will, however, not have an effect on what has already been deposited.
  • Your oral health will improve. Dental stains will go away after a cleaning and will not come back unless you smoke again. Periodontitis and pocket formation will also stop progressing.
  • As you move on from smoking, these benefits keep on adding up. If you are able to make it to 10 years without a smoke, your risk of lung cancer will be reduced to half as compared to a smoker.
  • The risk of all other types of cancer due to smoking will also gradually fall and any precancerous cells will be replaced by new healthy cells.
  • If you happened to snore due to the habit of smoking, the good news is that your snoring will also gradually go away.
  • After 15 years, your risk of a heart attack is almost the same as a non-smoker. Risk of stroke also falls down drastically. Congratulations on quitting.

One of the biggest benefits of smoking is that you will save yourself and your loved ones from a number of deadly diseases, which can be caused due to passive smoke. In this process, you also save a lot of money and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Keep going.

Smoking causes a rise in the levels of free radicals in your body, which leads to oxidative stress and damage to internal and external organs. This is what increases the risk of several diseases and disorders. Let’s have a look at the harms caused due to smoking:

  1. Smoking causes cancer
  2. Smoking increases the risk of oral cancer
  3. Smoking causes other oral problems
  4. Smoking causes COPD
  5. Smoking causes high blood pressure and heart attack
  6. Smoking causes stomach ulcers
  7. Smoking lowers immunity and causes autoimmune disorders
  8. Smoking increases ageing
  9. Smoking is fatal

Smoking causes cancer

If only oral and oropharyngeal cancers weren’t enough, you must know that smoking has strongly been associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, cancer of the uterus and even that of the brain.

Studies have found that almost 85% of the total cases of lung cancer are caused by cigarette smoking. Not surprising since it reduces the levels of antioxidants in the body, which have a protective action against tissue damage.

What links smoking to cancer is the presence of toxic substances present in the cigarette, particularly tar, which has been proven to be carcinogenic. The various particles suspended in tar, giving it a characteristic brown colour, contain a potent carcinogen called benzopyrene, which raises your risk of several types of cancer.

Further, lung cancer is caused due to the deposition of noxious substances in the blood like hydrogen cyanide, hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide and organic acids..

Smoking increases the risk of oral cancer

It has been well-established that smoking increases the risk of oral cancer due to its irritant actions. This is often preceded by precancerous lesions like leukoplakia, which is manifested as a white patch on the oral mucosa. If you witness even a slight discolouration of your mucosa, it is important to visit your dentist so as to take precautionary measures.

You must note that leukoplakia is a reversible condition and does not always turn to cancer, provided it is managed on time. Oral cancer, unfortunately, is not reversible and would require surgical resection or radiotherapy. Even after that, its 5-year survival rate which is as low as 50%. Not all worth a smoke, right?

Tobacco has been listed as a carcinogen and a majority of oral cancer cases have been observed in habitual smokers. Not a coincidence, we guess.

Further, the risk of oral cancer increases by up to 15 times when combined with alcohol. Not just cancer of the mouth, smoking also increases the likelihood of several oropharyngeal cancer like that of the pharynx or the oesophagus with more than 93% of their cases being reported due to smoking. So, maybe it’s time to check your habits.

Smoking causes other oral problems

A smoker can be easily identified from their mouth. Dental stains, discolouration of the teeth and darkening of the lips are some common findings. Stains are seen due to the deposition of tar on the teeth, which gives them a brownish look.

But, cigarette smoking affects more than your aesthetics, if that wasn’t already a problem.

With time, smokers will experience loosening of the tooth and receding of the gum line along with the formation of pockets. These pockets contain bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms, which leads to different oral manifestations like halitosis, bleeding while brushing or oozing of pus from the gums. Just imagine how gross things would be.

Oral halitosis is not merely bad breath, which can be dealt with the help of mouth fresheners, it is a disturbing condition and often poses psychological problems and self-image issues among those affected. Halitosis is worse among smokers due to dehydration caused by the effect of tobacco.

Further, periodontitis will eventually cause loss of the tooth. These are just the mildest side-effects of smoking, there is a lot more ahead.

Smoking causes COPD

Smokers are often seen coughing. Ever wondered why?

Smoking significantly increases the risk of COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, which are a group of lung disorders, causing difficulty in breathing. This will be manifested as more than just a cough in most cases.

Wheezing, shortness of breath, dyspnoea and difficulty in breathing upon exertion and exercise are some of the common symptoms of COPD. If you experience these, it is probably time to quit. Also, don’t forget to book your doctor’s appointment because these symptoms are anything but normal.

In case you were wondering, you must know that 85% of the cases of COPD are caused due to cigarette smoking. This is due to the effect of smoking on the ciliary muscles and mucosa, which interfere with the cleansing mechanism of the respiratory system, causing toxic substance and pollutants to accumulate. So, be prepared for some discomfort if you do not quit.

The bright side is that as and when you quit smoking, cilia are the foremost structures to heal in your body. So, you have a choice to make.

Smoking causes high blood pressure and heart attack

The effects of smoking are not just on your lungs. It also affects cardiac tissues and blood vessels, causing the blood to become thicker. The thickness of blood can be attributed to the release of carbon monoxide upon lighting a cigarette. Smoking also causes the release of oxidising agents, which increases the risk of clot formation and raises blood pressure and heart rate.

This implies that there is an increase in the effort by your heart, causing it to work much harder. These effects occur due to the harmful components present in cigarettes, particularly tar.

Since smoking contributes to clot formation, it causes narrowing down of the arteries leading to atherosclerosis. As your arteries narrow, the amount of blood flowing to the heart is reduced, which can lead to heart attack or coronary heart disease and peripheral artery disease.

It has been found that the risk of coronary heart disease is twice as much among smokers as compared to those who do not smoke.

Further, smoking also reduces blood flow to other major organs, which can lead to their damage. It can, therefore, be determined that smoking increases the risk of damage to each and every organ of your body. One major organ affected by this is your brain as smoking contributes to an increased risk of stroke. By ceasing smoking, you reduce your risk by almost a half within a year. Additionally, you save those affected by passive smoke.

Smoking causes stomach ulcers

Smoking increases the risk of gastric ulcers and even stomach cancer since it is an irritant to the gastric mucosa. Smoking weakens the oesophagal muscles responsible for controlling gastroesophageal sphincter, which is primarily responsible for passing down food down the oesophagus. It also prevents regurgitation of stomach contents into the oesophagus.

As this sphincter is affected, acid reflux is seen among smokers. Due to repeated reflux, there is also an increased incidence of heartburn and acidity. Over time, acid reflux causes ulcers in the stomach and also increases the risk of gastric cancer due to these ulcerations.

Smoking lowers immunity and causes autoimmune disorders

Smokers are more prone to infections and illnesses, particularly those of the respiratory system. Lung infections are most common among smokers due to a lowered immune status and the irritation of trachea caused by cigarette smoke. Lung irritation and damage slowly causes narrowing down of airway passage and leads to the symptoms of breathlessness and wheezing, which gradually progress on to COPD. In addition to this, the chances of other allergies and infections are also increased.

However, the effect is not just limited to a lowered immunity. Studies have found that smoking significantly increases the risk of autoimmunity in the body, which can further lead to skin-related autoimmune disorders and transplant rejection in case the person requires any. So, it is best to stay away from this poor habit.

Smoking increases ageing

Smoking increases the levels of free radicals in your body, which are responsible for early signs of ageing due to their aggressive actions. This will be seen as wrinkling of the skin and greying of the hair along with other signs of premature ageing like fine lines, age spots and uneven skin tone.

Its effects on the hair include hair greying, hair fall and hair loss.

Other than this, it is also common to note visual disturbances among smokers, with the precedence of visual problems commonly experienced in old age. But are these effects just in the form of early ageing? Probably not. Some studies suggest that due to an increased risk of macular degeneration, some smokers even have a chance of getting blind by the age they turn 65.

Smoking is fatal

This is true that smoking increases the risk of several diseases and disorders. But it also is associated with a higher rate of mortality. Smoking has been identified as an independent risk factor for premature death among young individuals. This could either be due to lung cancer, COPD, cardiovascular disease or stroke. Even those facing passive smoke aren’t safe. So, all you can do to ensure your longevity and that of your loved ones is quit.

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References

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  3. American lung association. 10 Health Effects Caused by Smoking You Didn't Know About. Chicago, Illinois, United States
  4. Smokefree. Health Effects. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; National Institutes of Health.
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  6. National Health Service [Internet]. Smokefree;UK; How smoking affects your body
  7. The Oral Cancer Foundation. The Tobacco Connection. Boise, Idaho, US
  8. Brunet. The harmful effects of smoking on health and well-being. Quebec, Canada
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  10. Centre for Health Informatics. [Internet]. National Institute of Health and Family Welfare Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking
  11. Smokefree. Benefits of Quitting. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; National Institutes of Health.
  12. American Cancer Society [internet]. Atlanta (GA), USA; https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/benefits-of-quitting-smoking-over-time.html
  13. American lung association. Benefits of Quitting. Chicago, Illinois, United States
  14. Nicoderm. 11 Benefits of Quitting. Johnson & Johnson Inc; Canada
  15. American Cancer Society [internet]. Atlanta (GA), USA; https://www.cancer.org/healthy/stay-away-from-tobacco/benefits-of-quitting-smoking-over-time.html
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