Effects of cigarette smoking

Effects of cigarette smoking

Does smoking really harm the body? a common question that most of us have frequently encountered. In simple words, smoking, irrespective of the type, is a killer. Not just the tobacco in a cigarette is toxic to the human body, but almost all the substances packed in it.  In human body effects of cigarette smoking is definable.

Moreover,Smoking is the 2nd leading cause of death worldwide. As well as the commonest cause of preventable deaths in the United States (accounting for 480 000 annual deaths).


Ingredients of a cigarette

A cigarette contains more than 500 ingredients including nicotine, tar, and carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, arsenic, etc. Smoke from a burning cigarette releases more than 5000 chemicals directly into your lungs. Out of those substances, at least 60 substances were found to be directly associated with cancer. 

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colorless gas that is released from burning tobacco. It irreversibly binds with hemoglobin in blood. Hemoglobin, carbon monoxide complex is called as carboxyhemoglobin. It lacks the capacity to carry oxygen. Heavy exposure to Carbon monoxide leads to oxygen deficiency and even death.


Health consequences of nicotine are enormous. Once it enters the blood, it acts on the brain to alter the person’s consciousness. The alertness may be reduced. Also, he may exhibit behavioral changes. High doses of nicotine impair your sleep. It alters the hormonal regulation leading to high insulin levels and insulin resistance. Nicotine acting on the heart increases the heart rate. At the same time, acting on peripheral blood vessels increases the blood pressure. These two effects increase the risk of heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) and strokes. In addition, nicotine is considered as a strong cancer-stimulating-substance (Carcinogen). Nicotine is the main substance that causes tobacco addiction. Long term use can progress to tobacco dependence, a state in which you will develop withdrawal symptoms if you cease smoking.

Effect of Smoking on Lungs


Smoking and most of the lung diseases are frequently related to one another. Substances in cigarette smoke deposit on the epithelium of the airway and induce airway damage. This impairs the clearance of secretions, inhaled pathogens and, other foreign materials. The result is frequent, severe lung infections.

Similarly, smoking is the leading cause of chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). COPD is a debilitating disease characterized by chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Treatments of COPD remain poor and is best managed at the level of prevention.

Effect of Smoking on Heart

Chemicals in cigarette smoke can induce the formation of atherosclerotic plaques in blood vessels. With the help of the effects of nicotine, smoking increases the risk of myocardial infarctions.

Smoking may cause Erectile Dysfunction


It’s not uncommon to see a long term smoker presenting to the hospital with erectile dysfunction. Toxins in smoke directly affect on your reproductive organs. This is why subfertility is comparatively high among the smoking population.

Smoking may cause Cancer

Tobacco and smoking have an invariable relationship with many cancers. Out of them, lung cancers are predominant, smoking being responsible for 85% of the deaths related to lung cancer. Oral and esophageal cancers have a signification association as well. People who smoke and consume alcohol together, are at a 15-fold risk of developing oral cancer than the normal population. Smoking and co-existence of bladder cancer are yet another common occurrence. This is thought to be due to the accumulation of toxic substances of cigarette smoke in the bladder after getting cleared by the kidneys.

Smoking cessation

Smoking withdrawal syndrome

Long term smokers may develop withdrawal syndrome due to nicotine dependence. Symptoms may include nervousness, headaches, decreased heart rate, sleeplessness, irritability, and depression. This can be relieved by giving low dose nicotine as chewing gum or skin patch followed by gradual tailing off over 9 -12 weeks. This is known as nicotine replacement therapy. The administration of drugs to relieve symptoms of nicotine withdrawal is also an effective method.

Smoking itself and cessation of smoking both can trigger depression. Major depression among the smoking population is twice as common as its prevalence among the non-smoking population.  Therefore, antidepressants are also concurrently given to alleviate depression.

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Author: Dr. Pulasthi MilanPulasthi Milan Lankarathna is a graduated doctor from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Currently, he is working as a medical-officer at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka. Writing has been his passion throughout his life. He loved to read books since his childhood. He believes that the essence that he gained by reading, motivated him to be a writer. He started writing as a creative writer during his College days. He has written over hundreds of short stories, poems, and articles, etc. After graduating as a Doctor, he switched himself to write about medical topics with an idea of improving the medical knowledge among the general population.