What smoking does to you

What smoking does to you

What smoking does to you

Smoking kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. In addition, smoking tobacco has been proven to cause lung cancer, pregnancy complications, strokes and heart disease. Overall, it makes you a far less healthy person.

Most people are aware that smoking eventually can lead to lung cancer, emphysema and death, but many don’t know the things that smoking can do to them right now. If you smoke, you owe it to yourself to learn more about the immediate effects smoking has on your life.

A cigarette contains about 4000 chemicals, many of which are poisonous. Some of the worst ones are:

  • Nicotine: a deadly poison
  • Arsenic: used in rat poison
  • Methane: a component of rocket fuel
  • Ammonia: found in floor cleaner
  • Cadmium: used in batteries
  • Carbon monoxide: part of car exhaust
  • Formaldehyde: used to preserve body tissue
  • Butane: lighter fluid
  • Hydrogen cyanide: the poison used in gas chambers.

Every time you inhale smoke from a cigarette, small amounts of these chemicals get into your blood through your lungs. They travel to all the parts of your body where they cause harm.

What do all these chemicals do to your body?

As you might imagine, even small amounts of the poisonous chemicals in cigarettes can do bad things to your body. Here are some facts about what smoking does to you:

  • Smoking makes you smell bad, gives you wrinkles, stains your teeth and gives you bad breath.
  • Smokers get three times more cavities than non-smokers.
  • Smoking lowers your hormone levels.
  • When smokers catch a cold, they are more likely than non-smokers to have a cough that lasts a long time. They are also more likely than non-smokers to get bronchitis and pneumonia.
  • Teen smokers have smaller lungs and a weaker heart than teen non-smokers. They also get sick more often than teens who don’t smoke.

What happens to your lungs when you smoke?

Every time you inhale smoke from a cigarette, you kill some of the air sacks in your lungs, called alveoli. These air sacks transfer the oxygen that you breathe into your blood. Alveoli don’t grow back, so when you destroy them, you have permanently destroyed part of your lungs.

Smoking paralyses the cilia that line your lungs. Cilia are tiny hair-like structures that move back and forth to sweep particles out of your lungs. When you smoke, the cilia can’t move and can’t do their job. So dust, pollen and other things that you inhale remain in your lungs and build up. Also, there are a lot of particles in smoke that get into your lungs. Since your cilia are paralysed because of the smoke and can’t clean them out, the particles in your lungs turn into tar.

You know smoking is bad for you, but you really like it

Many people enjoy the feeling that smoking gives them. This good feeling is from the nicotine in the cigarettes. Some people think smoking will help them lose weight or stay thin. Many people also feel that smoking gives them a sense of freedom and independence, and some smoke to feel more comfortable in social situations. If this sounds like you, you should stop and think about whether smoking is really worth the risks. Some of these risks are the following:

  • Nicotine can make you feel good, but is feeling good (a feeling you can also get from healthy activities like playing sports) really worth all the bad things cigarettes do to you? If you smoke, you’ll get sick more often.
  • You also have the chance of getting lung cancer or emphysema, which will make you really sick for a long time and eventually can cause your death.
  • Smoking doesn’t really help people lose weight. If that was true, every smoker would be thin.
  • Smoking lowers your hormone levels.


Effects of smoking on the body. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/smoking/effects-on-body
Smoking: do you really know the risks? Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/QuitSmoking/QuittingSmoking/Smoking-Do-you-really-know-the-risks_UCM_322718_Article.jsp#.V7MTsDV-bLI
Ten of the worst diseases smoking causes. Retrieved from http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/tobacco/reports-resources/sotc/by-the-numbers/10-worst-diseases-smoking-causes.html

(Revised by M van Deventer)