What Are the Effects of Smoking Tobacco?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) calls cigarette smoking the single major cause of cancer death in the United States. Smoking is linked to mortality from cardiovascular disease and lung disorders. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of poisonous particles as well as gases such as carbon monoxide. These prevent adequate amounts of oxygen from reaching the rest of the body. Nicotine affects the central nervous system, causing addiction and withdrawal symptoms. Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of negative health effects.

Cardiovascular System Effects

All effects of the cardiovascular system stem from vasoconstriction caused by cigarettes. This disorder, known as atherosclerosis, leads to narrowed arteries. Coronary artery disease is an example, whereby the blood supply to the heart is cut off, potentially causing a fatal heart attack. Narrowing of arteries also sets the grounds for a stroke, while weakening of arteries can cause aneurysms. Women who smoke are also at a greater risk for developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or clot in the legs, which can break off and travel to the lungs. If you take oral birth control pills, the risk for DVTs and pulmonary emboli is particularly high. According to the American Heart Association, smoking raises the heart rate and blood pressure, which over time contributes to heart failure.

Pulmonary System Effects

Airways leading into the lungs are lined with hair-like projections called cilia, which prevent foreign material from entering into the lungs. Smoke toxins paralyze the cilia, allowing harmful substances to settle in the lungs. Along with increased phlegm, these substances accumulate in the lungs, reducing its capacity and causing shortness of breath. The result is the whole body receiving inadequate oxygen. According to the ACS, smoking causes nine out of 10 lung cancer deaths.

Immune System Effects

Smoking tobacco damages white blood cells that fight off foreign bacteria and infection. Normal body defense mechanisms are impaired, putting a smoker at a greater risk for disease. For example, you can get a cold and suffer from it longer than a nonsmoker. The University of Maryland Medical Center states smoking causes deficiency in vitamin C, an important antioxidant that helps wound healing and strengthens the immune system to ward off infection.

Other Health Effects

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking harms nearly every organ in the human body, besides being responsible for 30 percent of all cancer deaths. Infertility and erectile dysfunction, loss of bone density and unexplained bone fractures, gingivitis, cataracts and peptic ulcers are possible effects. Tobacco smoke is also responsible for miscarriages, preterm delivery, stillbirth and low birth weight, and is linked to sudden infant death syndrome.

About this Author

Based in Chicago, Jojo Genden is passionate about sharing her health and wellness expertise through writing since 2008. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Rockford College, and a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Genden is a registered nurse in the state of Illinois with a background in intensive care.