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How cigarettes damage your health and more

The effects of smoking cigarettes can be catastrophic on the human body, and most now know of the risks of smoking. However, the dangers of smoking aren’t just limited to the smokers' own body but can also affect the health of others, as well as personal finance.

The effects of smoking on the human body

The most obvious and dramatic damage caused by cigarettes are to the human body. In the UK alone, 78,000 people die from smoking every year. This causes massive strain on the health service and illustrates just how dangerous smoking is. But how exactly does smoking affect the body? Below are some of the biggest ways smoking cigarettes can destroy your health.

Lungs and Breathing

Smoking cigarettes involves inhaling harmful smoke into your lungs, so it makes sense that some of the largest damage done is in this vital organ. Smoking can lead to serious health conditions by causing terrible damage to airways and the alveoli in your lungs. Alveoli are the small air sacs that help pass oxygen to your blood and are very vulnerable to smoke damage.

Smoking also causes your lungs to take on tar, a substance found in smoke. This oily brown residue coats the lungs and makes it harder to breathe, while also increasing the risk of cancer. Shockingly, ⅔ of tar inhaled with smoke will remain in your lungs with every puff.

The damage caused by smoke can cause a wide range of respiratory diseases. Smoking can bring on emphysema and chronic bronchitis, diseases that belong to a group of illnesses known as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). In fact smokers are 12 to 13 times more likely to die from COPD.

According to the NHS, smoking can also cause illnesses related to breathing, such as asthma, to be more severe or prolonged. Cigarettes can even cause smokers to be more vulnerable to simple illness such as the common cold.

Lastly, cigarette smoke contains a range of carcinogens; these are cancer causing chemicals that greatly increase the risk of lung cancer. In fact, a massive 70% of lung cancer cases are thought to be directly caused by smoking, according to information from the NHS.

Heart and Circulation

Simply put, smoking greatly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, or CVD as it is sometimes known. This includes a higher risk of coronary heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.

According to the British Heart Foundation, the chemicals in cigarettes cause the walls of veins and arteries to become stickier, which allows fat and cholesterol to build up more easily. This effectively narrows blood vessels, greatly increasing the chances of the diseases mentioned above. The narrowing of blood vessels prevents oxygen getting to all areas of the body, so can even have effects on the legs, arms and skin. Worryingly, even light smokers who smoke less than five per day can show early indicators of CVD.

The narrowing of blood vessels also causes higher blood pressure, which is made worse by nicotine. Nicotine is present in all cigarettes, and causes the heart to beat faster, also increasing blood pressure. This all adds up to a dangerous increase, especially for those who already have high blood pressure.

Mouth and Throat

When it comes to the damage caused by smoking, the mouth and throat is at ground zero. This is the point where smoke enters the body and the risks to these areas are as great as anywhere else.

According to experts on dental health, smoking causes gum disease, tooth loss and even mouth or throat cancer. These cancers can unfortunately be fatal, or lead to cancer in more serious places such as the lungs and pancreas.

Even though it’s less serious, smoking also causes some nasty changes to your appearance in this area. A common complaint is yellowed teeth from cigarette smoke, and even unsightly brown stains on teeth enamel. These may require specialist toothpastes or expensive cleaning kits to remove.

Brain

The primary risks to the brain from smoking are strokes and cancer. As mentioned above, the effects smoking has on blood vessels greatly increases the chance of a stroke, which is when blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.

However, that is not the only risk to the brain; worryingly, smoking can actually cause the brain to age faster, according to Age UK. Studies show that smokers have a thinner cerebral cortex than people who otherwise don’t smoke. The cerebral cortex is the section of the brain responsible for memory and learning, and the thinning of it an undermine these functions.

The dangers of secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke is also one of the worst health risks from smoking. Because of secondhand smoking, not only do cigarettes impact the smoker but also those around them. Secondhand smoke contains around 7,000 chemicals, which can cause respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as worsen conditions such as asthma. Secondhand smoke can have an even more pronounced effect on children. Sadly, infants that are exposed to secondhand smoke are far more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Not even pets are safe from secondhand smoke. A variety of pets including, dogs, cats, fish and birds are all vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and the chemicals from cigarette smoke.

What are the financial effects of smoking?

The health effects of smoking are well documented, but the financial hit from smoking is also a big deal these days. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to work out how much the average smoker spends per year on cigarettes. Shockingly, the average spend is £3,285 per year, and that's just on average! However, like the health risks of smoking, the financial toll isn’t that simple. Smoking can cause issues elsewhere, and one big one is how smoking affects property value. As more people are seeing property as an investment, there are growing concerns about the value of smoker’s homes. Interestingly, homes that have seen heavy smoking are worth a whopping 40% less!