Hazards of Cigarette Smoking: Not Just the Lungs

Cigarettes are the number one cause of preventable death in the United States, and the World Health Organization (WHO), reports that smoking cigarettes has killed 12 times more British people than World War II. Globally, 10 million cigarettes are sold every minute, and somebody dies from tobacco use every eight seconds.

As any smoker knows, quitting is extremely difficult. Nicotine is the primary addictive ingredient in cigarettes, but it isn’t the only dangerous component. Cancer.gov says there are hundreds of chemicals in cigarettes and at least 250 are known to be carcinogenic. A few of the most familiar include ammonia, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, vinyl chloride, acetaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and arsenic.

Not Just Lung Cancer

It’s widely known that smoking causes lung cancer, but it can also cause cancer of the liver, cervix, pancreas, bladder, colon, rectum stomach, kidney, esophagus, larynx, pharynx, mouth, lips, nose and tongue.

That’s only the beginning, because life-threatening illnesses aren’t limited to cancer.

Many smokers are diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smokers also have a higher risk of developing pneumonia or other lung infections.

Smoking is a major cause of coronary artery disease, greatly increasing the risk of stroke and heart attack. Smoking is also associated with aneurysms – bulging blood vessels that can burst and cause death very quickly.

Smoking is often responsible for peripheral vascular disease, a condition that limits the flow of blood to the arms and legs, resulting in open sores and pain when walking.

Women who smoke may have more trouble getting pregnant and may experience difficulties during pregnancy, as smoking can damage the reproductive system. For example, ectopic pregnancies – where the embryo implants outside of the uterus, are more common among women who smoke. Miscarriages and serious bleeding are also a greater risk.

Stillbirths and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) are more common for infants born to mothers who smoke. Babies born to women who smoke are at increased risk of low birth weight, cleft palate or cleft lip.

Male smokers may have trouble getting and maintaining an erection due to limited blood flow to the penis. They have a higher risk of sexual impotence and infertility.

And there’s more:

  • Risk of tooth loss and gum disease
  • Bad breath and yellow, stained teeth
  • Decreased immune system
  • Increased risk of type two diabetes occurring early in life
  • Premature aging and wrinkles
  • Changes in hair and nails
  • Increased risk of fractures due to lower bone density
  • Higher risk of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis
  • Optic nerve damage and increased risk of cataracts and macular degeneration – a condition that often leads to blindness
  • Wounds and minor injuries take longer to heal
  • Increased risk of stomach ulcers

Quitting Cigarettes

Smoking is a difficult habit to break, but it’s never too late to stop smoking. People who quit, regardless of age, are less likely to die from smoking than those who continue to smoke.
However, sooner is better than later. Quitting before age 40 cuts the risk of early death by 90 percent, and stopping by the mid-50s cuts the risk of premature death by about 75 percent.
Ask your doctor for advice. She may be able to prescribe medications that will help with severe nicotine withdrawal symptoms.

Drug Addiction Treatment Centers

Smoking frequently accompanies an addiction to drugs and alcohol. If you decide to enter drug and alcohol rehab for addiction, keep in mind that most addiction treatment providers include nicotine addiction treatment as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

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