effects of smoking on your body

effects of smoking on your body

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Smoking isn’t just damaging to your lungs: it harms the whole body. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of premature death and illness in Newfoundland and Labrador; each year 1000 smokers and 110 non-smokers will die in our province. To learn more, rollover the hotspots below, or read 25 health risks of smoking here.

Eyes, Nose, Throat

  • Smoking can lead to a number of common eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and even blindness.
  • Within a few seconds of your first puff, irritating gases (formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide) begin to work on the sensitive membranes of your eyes, nose and throat. If you continue to smoke these gases will produce a smoker’s cough. One reason many smokers prefer menthol cigarettes is that menthol acts as an anesthetic to mask the irritation.


  • Continued smoking produces abnormal thickening in the membranes that line your throat. This thickening is accompanied by abnormal cellular changes linked to throat cancer.
  • Smoking irritates the sensitive membranes of your mouth and throat which can lead to a smoker’s cough and affect your vocal cords.

THE GOOD NEWS! After 5 years of quitting, your risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, and esophagus are cut in half.


  • Blood pressure increases 10-15% putting more stress on heart and blood vessels.
  • The toxins in cigarette smoke thickens your blood, triggers plaque buildup, makes it harder for your blood to carry oxygen and increases risk of blood clots (“How does smoking affect,” 2011).
  • Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in your red blood cells, decreasing your energy.

THE GOOD NEWS! Within 8 hours of your last cigarette, carbon monoxide levels in the blood drop and oxygen levels increase to normal.

Male Reproductive System

  • Smoking causes blockage of the arteries, meaning that smoking inhibits the flow of blood throughout the body. Impotence is as a result of an arterial blockage.
  • Smoking can lower sperm count and increase the chance of abnormalities in sperm shape and function.

THE GOOD NEWS! Male smokers who have reported to have erectile dysfunction have completely reversed this situation by quitting smoking.


  • The risk of oral cancer is 5 to 10 times higher among people who smoke compared to people who do not smoke.
  • Smoking also increases the risk for gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, mouth sores and bad breath.

THE GOOD NEWS! When you quit smoking, the risk of oral cancer starts to decrease quickly After 10 to 20 years of being smoke free, your risk of oral cancer is almost at the same level as someone who has never smoked.


  • Smoking affects your ability to smell. This may affect your enjoyment of life in many ways including your ability to taste food.

THE GOOD NEWS! After 48 hours of your last cigarette, food begins to taste and smell better.


  • Your heart works harder when you are smoking.
  • A buildup of fat deposits associated with nicotine and carbon monoxide makes blood vessels and arteries smaller, limiting the blood supply to the heart. (Health Canada)
  • Smoking causes heart attacks, angina, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.

THE GOOD NEWS! Just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate will return to normal. Within 24 hours, your risk of having a heart attack starts to decrease.


  • As respiratory rate increases, your lungs work harder.
  • Cigarette smoke injures the tissues of the lungs and the airways. It also causes excess mucus which provides a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses, making you susceptible to cold, flu, bronchitis, etc.
  • The lining of the bronchi thickens making you susceptible to cancer.
  • Continued exposure to smoke affects the elasticity of the lungs which may lead to emphysema.
  • Particles in the smoke end up in the lining of your throat, bronchi, and in the delicate air sacs of your lungs. A pack-a-day smoker for one year amounts to 6 ounces of cancer-causing tar in your lungs.

THE GOOD NEWS! Within 8 hours of your last cigarette, carbon monoxide levels in the blood drop and oxygen levels increase to normal.

Female Reproductive System

  • Smoking can decrease your chance of getting pregnant.
  • Smoking is known to cause problems during pregnancy that can harm both mother and baby. Smokers are more likely to have miscarriages, stillbirths, and low birth-weight babies.
  • Smoking can cause women to reach menopause earlier and to experience more unpleasant symptoms while going through menopause

THE GOOD NEWS! Quitting smoking during pregnancy has considerable positive health impact for both women and fetuses, and reduces health problems for children born of mothers who smoke.

Stomach, pancreas, gallbladder

  • Smoking increases the risk of cancer of the stomach and pancreas.
  • Smoking contributes to many disorders of the digestive system including, heart burn, gastroesophageal reflux disease and peptic ulcers.
  • Smoking may increase the risk of developing gallstones.

THE GOOD NEWS! Quitting smoking can reverse some of the negative effects of on the digestive system within a few hours of your last cigarette.


  • Smoking harms the liver’s ability to process medications, alcohol, and other toxins and remove them from the body. In some cases, smoking may affect the dose of medication needed to treat an illness.

Breast (female)

  • Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can double a woman’s risk of breast cancer at a younger age. Chemicals from cigarette smoke circulate in the blood and are attracted to fat tissue, the major component of breasts. The chemicals can build up in this tissue and cause the cells around them to change, leading to cancer.

Immune System

  • Smoking can weaken your immune system. Your body makes white blood cells to fight injury, infection, and other illnesses. When you smoke, your body makes white blood cells to fight the damage caused by smoking. As you continue to smoke, your white blood cell count remains high as the immune system is continuously fighting against the damage caused by smoking. This makes the immune system tired and weak and unable to fight diseases in the body.


  • People who smoke have faster rates of bone loss, which can lead to osteoporosis, than people who do not smoke. This also puts them at higher risk of fractures.
  • Women who smoke also tend to enter menopause at an earlier age than women who do not smoke which can result in more rapid bone loss at an earlier age.

THE GOOD NEWS! Quitting smoking, even later in life, may help limit the amount bone loss.


  • Nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, causes chemical or biological changes in the brain which lead to addiction.
  • Nicotine is a ‘reinforcing drug’, which means the body craves it despite its harmful effects.


  • The tar from tobacco smoke turns your fingers yellow and stains your finger nails.
    Smoking decreases blood flow to your skin causing old, leathery looking skin and wrinkles even when you are young.