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Effects of Smoking: What Cigarettes Do to Your Body

You know this, but smoking affects every inch of your body.

It’s no secret: Smoking is bad for you. Really, really bad for you. But what exactly happens to your body when you take a drag of a cigarette? In this video, internist Paul Knoepflmacher, MD, breaks down the journey of the toxic cigarette smoke, and explains the many harmful effects of smoking on your body.

You already know this, but smoking affects all the organs in your body. That’s because the chemicals of the cigarette have direct access to your lungs and airways, and your respiratory system has to deliver oxygen to all other parts of your body. Here are some of the worst ways smoking affects your body:

  • Smoking damages the mouth and throat by creating an abnormal thickening of the lining of the throat. This thickening is actually additional cells being multiplied uncontrollably, and these cells can form malignant tumors. The smoke also reaches the nose and sinuses. Smokers may notice a decrease in their senses of taste and smell due to the damage from the cigarette smoke.

  • Once cigarette smoke reaches the lungs, it may reduce the body’s ability to fight off viruses, bacteria, and respiratory illnesses. The airways develop a thick lining of mucus, which can cause chronic coughing and breathing problems. The airways will be more constricted, so the lungs will have to work much harder to take in the necessary amount of oxygen. The cigarette may also damage the air sacs of the lungs, which is where the body transfers oxygen to the blood. This is a lot of damage to the lungs; in fact, 87 percent of people who die from lung cancer are smokers.

  • The effects of smoking on the heart are also startling. The heart is already the hardest-working organ in the body, and a smoker’s heart has to pound 36,000 more times a day than that of a non-smoker. The cigarette smoke creates plaque buildup in the arteries, which narrows the arteries and inhibits the body from easily circulating blood to all parts of the body. That puts a smoker at risk for hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. If the circulation problems are severe enough, the arteries may not be able to provide oxygen-rich blood to the extremities, and chances of amputation of the hands or feet increase.

  • Smoking even affects your bones. Studies have found a direct relationship between loss in bone density and smoking. Cigarette use may cause weak, brittle bones, which increases the smoker’s chances for osteoporosis or fractures. 

  • Cigarettes may take a toll on your sex life, too. Because the narrowed arteries cannot circulate blood effectively, men can experience difficulty getting an erection. Smoking may also cause lower sperm counts in men and lower fertility in women.

  • The effects of smoking on your appearance are obvious. They include wrinkly skin, stained teeth and nails, tooth decay, and thinning hair. The wrinkles are mostly caused by the lack of oxygen reaching the skin cells.

So, yeah: Smoking is toxic for your entire body. But the good news is that your body begins to repair itself almost instantly after you quit smoking. (Here’s the exact timeline of what happens after the last cigarette.) Ready to kick butt? Try thes<

Dr Paul Knoepflmacher

This video features Dr Paul Knoepflmacher. Dr. Paul Knoepflmacher is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine

Duration: 3:52. Last Updated On: May 25, 2014, 5:09 a.m.
Reviewed by: Dr Holly Atkinson, Dr Supriya Jain, Dr. Preeti Parikh, . Review date: Aug. 24, 2012
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