8 Side effects of tobacco

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Tobacco smoking and inhaling it allows the smoke to be ingested and absorbed into the bloodstream. Cigarettes are used by about 23% of people worldwide. Numerous studies have connected tobacco use to several major diseases, such as coronary artery disease (CAD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), malignancies of every organ system and poor reproductive health.

Smoke from tobacco contains nicotine, an addictive substance that keeps smokers going.

Smokers breathe in roughly 7,000 other compounds in addition to nicotine from cigarettes. Smoking tobacco leaf produces many of these compounds. Due to their chemical activity, several of these substances cause the body to undergo significant harm.

Over 70 recognised carcinogens are included in tobacco smoke. Smoking damages almost every organ in the body, resulting in several disorders and gradually degrading health.


Smokers usually begin their habit in their teenage years. They also tend to have smokers among their family or friends. 

Teenagers have been specifically targeted by the tobacco industry’s extensive advertising. Advertisements and social media show tobacco use as acceptable or even glamorous. Particularly for younger people, vaping and e-cigarettes offer appealing options.

Chemicals in tobacco

Highly harmful substances found in tobacco smoke are,

  • Carbon monoxide – The gas carbon monoxide is poisonous. It quickly results in death when present in large dosages as it replaces oxygen in the blood. Carbon monoxide has no smell or colour. The gas in the blood of smokers hinders oxygen from reaching their muscles and organs.
  • Tar – Tar refers to the solid particles that are suspended in tobacco smoke. Chemicals, such as cancer-causing agents (carcinogens), are present in the particles. Tar is dark and sticky, and it discolours lung tissue, teeth and fingernails.
  • Metals – Tobacco smoke contains several carcinogenic materials, such as arsenic, beryllium, cobalt, chromium, cadmium, lead and nickel. 
  • Radioactive chemicals – Tobacco smoke also has radioactive substances that are carcinogenic.
  • Oxidising chemicals – These are extremely reactive substances that can harm a smoker’s heart, muscles and blood vessels. When they interact with cholesterol, fatty deposits form on arterial walls. Their conduct contributes to blood vessel damage, heart disease and stroke.

8 Side Effects 


Smoking harms the tiny air sacs and airways in the lungs. As soon as a person starts smoking, lung function deteriorates more over time. However, it could take some time before the issue is apparent enough for lung disease to be diagnosed.

Severe long-term lung disorders such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can develop as a result of smoke damage to the lungs. Smoking can worsen some lung conditions already present, such as asthma, and it can increase the risk of lung infections, including pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are both considered to be a part of COPD.

Patients with COPD have damaged lung airways, making it difficult for the lungs to provide oxygen to the rest of the body.

The most frequent cause of COPD is smoking. When a person smokes for a longer period of time, the severity increases.

Chronic Bronchitis is a prevalent issue for those who smoke for a prolonged time. In this condition, the mucus production in the airways is excessive, making it difficult for the patient to cough it out. Chronic cough develops, and the airways swell with inflammation.

While there is no known treatment for chronic bronchitis, giving up smoking can help keep symptoms under control and prevent further damage.

  • Emphysema

Emphysema patients are at an increased risk for a wide range of additional conditions associated with impaired lung function, including pneumonia. Patients frequently require an oxygen mask or tube to help them breathe in the final stages of the disease.

Emphysema cannot be cured, but if a person stops smoking, it can be managed and slowed down.


Cancer is a condition in which abnormal cells proliferate uncontrollably and have the capacity to infect other tissues. Smoking can cause cancer and then prevent the body from combating it.

The body’s immune system may become weak as a result of the poisons in cigarette smoke, making it more difficult to kill cancer cells. When this occurs, there is unstoppable growth of cancer cells.

The DNA can be altered or damaged by the toxins in tobacco smoke. DNA serves as the “instruction manual” for a cell, controlling its regular growth and function. A cell’s uncontrolled growth due to DNA damage can result in a cancer. 

Smoke inhaled by non-smokers while in the proximity of a smoker is known as secondhand smoke. Nearly every part of the body can develop cancer as a result of smoking.

Smoking cessation reduces the risk of developing malignancies of the mouth, throat, oesophagus and larynx. 

The likelihood of a person developing mouth, throat, oesophagal and bladder cancer is decreased in half within five years of quitting smoking.

The risk of death from lung cancer decreases by 50% ten years after stopping smoking.


The cardiovascular system is damaged by tobacco use, which raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Smoking forms the main cause of coronary heart disease (CHD), in which the arteries of the heart are unable to deliver enough oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle. Heart attacks are typically caused by CHD.

Smoking increases blood clotting risk, elevates blood pressure and reduces exercise capacity. Also, it decreases blood levels of HDL cholesterol. 

An aortic aneurysm is more likely to develop in smokers. The main artery that carries blood from the heart to other organs has a bulge in it that resembles a balloon. It results from the aorta’s wall being more vulnerable. Over time, aortic aneurysms can enlarge and, in the event of a rupture, pose a threat to life.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) has smoking as a key risk factor. The arteries that supply the brain, organs and limbs with blood become clogged with a plaque in PAD. This makes an individual more susceptible to heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.

Smoking can induce peripheral vascular disease (PVD), also known as impaired blood flow to the arms and legs, or it can make it worse. Walking may be painful as a result, and open sores may not heal.

Smoking might make it harder for the body to heal from injuries as it alters blood flow. So, many medical professionals refuse to perform certain procedures on patients unless they quit smoking.

Reproductive system

The male body is more susceptible to the following conditions as a result of smoking tobacco.

  • Genetic sperm damage.
  • Decreased sperm count.
  • A larger proportion of sperm with defects.
  • Impotence, which could be due to smoking’s effects on blood flow and harm to the blood vessels in the penis.

The following are some impacts of tobacco smoke on the female body.

  • Elevated risk of cervical cancer.
  • Lower fertility, irregular menstrual cycles or no menstruation.
  • Menopause had already occurred one or two years prior.
  • If a smoker is over 35 and using the contraceptive pill, they have a significantly increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Circulatory system

On the circulatory system, tobacco smoke has the following effects.

  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Blood carries less oxygen during physical activity.
  • Increased risk of blood clotting.
  • Restricted circulation to the extremities (fingers and toes).
  • Constriction of the skin’s blood vessels causes a reduction in skin temperature.
  • Damage to the artery lining, which is a cause of atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty deposits on the artery walls).
  • Blockages in the blood supply raise the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Immune system

Although tobacco and cigarette carcinogens are to blame for the increased risk of cancer, many additional substances, such as nicotine, formaldehyde, tar, acetone, ammonia, carbon monoxide, benzopyrenes, cadmium, hydroxyquinone and nitrogen oxides, function as pro-inflammatory and immunosuppressive agents.

Among these, nicotine is known to be immunosuppressive and can reduce neutrophilic phagocytic activity as well as chemotaxis and cell signalling. 

In addition, nicotine inhibits the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which reduces neutrophils’ capacity to destroy pathogens.

Smoking sets off a chain reaction of inflammatory chemicals in the lungs that causes tissue damage from macrophages and the release of further inflammatory molecules that cause the persistent chronic inflammatory syndrome.

For instance, when active macrophages release interleukin-1 (IL1), this causes helper T cells (CD4+) to proliferate and become stimulated, which in turn causes killer T cells (cytotoxic effector CD8+) to become activated. The lungs of smokers’ have macrophages which have reduced ability to phagocytose inflammatory substances and degenerating cells in the lungs.


Skin is the largest organ in the body and the site of important inflammatory and immunological processes. The change in the appearance of the skin is one of smoking’s most obvious effects. According to studies, smoking increases the risk of premature facial wrinkling and facial ageing, and the more a person smokes, the higher the risk. 

Smoke-damaged skin often gives a greyish appearance.

Smoking can produce skin damage that is not immediately visible to the human eye, but it is happening.

Smoking hinders the skin’s capacity to heal itself as it increases the production of the metalloproteinase (MMPs) enzyme, which is required for damaging collagen in the skin and causes it to sag.

The essential scaffold protein known as collagen gives the skin its flexibility and smoothness. As collagen production decreases over time, squinting blocks out the negative effects of tobacco smoke and puckering the lips during cigarette inhalation can result in wrinkles around the eyes (also known as “Crow’s foot”) and mouth.

Smoking also limits the volume of blood that reaches the skin by tightening blood vessels close to the skin’s surface, depriving the skin of oxygen and vital nutrients that are carried in the blood. These alterations together make up the smoker’s face.

Other effects

Smoking can harm almost every organ in the body and have a negative impact on a person’s health in a variety of other ways. Other impacts of tobacco smoke on the body are,

  • Premature skin ageing
  • Decreased perception of taste and smell 
  • Bad breath and discoloured teeth
  • Decreased immune system function
  • Increased risk of type 2 Diabetes
  • High risk of developing painful stomach ulcers.
  • Stomach and intestinal discomfort and inflammation.
  • Increased chance of tooth loss and gum disease
  • Thinner bones and lower bone density increase the risk of broken bones, especially hip fractures.
  • Increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis and cataracts (clouding of the lenses of the eyes)
  • Age-related macular degeneration, which can cause blindness, is more likely to occur.
  • Wounds take a longer time to heal.

Many of the health issues caused by smoking might reduce a person’s quality of life. Smoking-related sickness might make it more difficult for a person to breathe, move about, work or play. Smoking cessation 

Smoking and pregnancy

Smoking increases a woman’s risk of pregnancy issues and makes getting pregnant more difficult. 

Smoking during pregnancy can harm the developing foetus’ tissues, especially the lungs and brain, and some studies have found a connection between maternal smoking and cleft lip in children.

Also, studies point to a link between smoking and miscarriage. The carbon monoxide content in tobacco can prevent an unborn child from getting enough oxygen. Additional compounds included in tobacco smoke can be harmful to growing human embryos. 

Nicotine addiction

Nicotine addiction is a clinically significant side effect of cigarette smoking. Nicotine addiction starts in youth and is causally linked to cigarette smoking. Soon after starting to smoke, nicotine addiction begins to develop.

It is impossible to undervalue the significance of nicotine addiction as an immediate health effect. Nicotine addiction acquires a position as a fundamental determinant of the negative health outcomes associated with cigarette smoking. 

The underlying cause of the prolonged exposure to the chemicals in tobacco smoke that results in the negative health effects of cigarette smoking is the frequently long-lasting, sustained addiction to nicotine.

Secondhand smoking

Secondhand smoking includes inhaling smoke from burning tobacco products and smoke that smokers exhale. Involuntary or passive smoking refers to breathing in secondhand smoke. Environmental tobacco smoke are some other names for it.

Among non-smokers, secondhand smoke (SHS) from burning tobacco products increases the risk of disease and early mortality. There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke exposure. Even a little exposure might have harmful effects right away.

Also, it contains a lot of carbon monoxide, a gas that prevents the blood from carrying oxygen to the heart and brain, as well as other compounds that raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. Both short-term and long-term impacts of secondhand smoking exposure include the following:

  • Eye, nose, throat and lung irritation are among the immediate side effects. 
  • Headaches, nausea and dizziness can also occur. 
  • Asthma episodes can also be brought on by exposure.
  • Lung cancer, coronary heart disease and cardiac mortality are caused due to prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke. 

Living among smokers increases the risk of contracting diseases linked to smoking. Lung cancer risk increases by 20%–30%, while coronary heart disease risk rises by 25%–30%, as stated by CDC (Centre for Disease Control).


Tobacco addiction poses a risk to one’s life when left untreated and can harm all of the body’s organ systems. The greatest approach to prevent getting sick from tobacco smoking is to never start smoking, and the next option is to give up smoking as soon as possible. 

A multidisciplinary healthcare team could play a significant part in helping patients stop smoking. In the battle against tobacco use, clinicians are also on the front lines.

In smoke cessation programmes, nurses help clinicians in a big way. Nurses are being trained in some hospitals to administer behavioural and pharmacological treatments to inpatient smokers. These therapies have a strong chance of successfully lowering smoking rates. 


What does tobacco do to your brain?

Nicotine, which can cause addiction, is a component of tobacco. Nicotine affects the brain by causing the adrenal glands to release the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) and by raising dopamine levels.

Why do people use tobacco?

People claim to smoke for various reasons, including social circumstances, enjoyment and stress alleviation.

How to stop using tobacco?

Ways to quit tobacco smoking.
1. Try using a nicotine replacement product. 
2. Prevent triggers.
3. Get in shape.
4. Try some relaxation methods.
5. Make a call for more help.

What are the side effects of quitting chewing tobacco?

Side effects of smoking tobacco 
1. A state of being tense, anxious, restless, impatient or angry.
2. Having depression and anxiety.
3. Constipation.
4. Gaining weight.
5. Craving for sweets
6. Headaches.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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