Effects of smoking on the body – Schreoshi Khan, WCHS

The risk of smoking has been known to governments since the 1960s. Further research into the link between smoking and lung cancer led to the introduction of the smoking ban in 2007. Around 5000 different chemicals are released by cigarette smoke into the bloodstream and have been linked to the formation of various cancers, an increased likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, damaged eyesight, weak bones, fertility problems in women, and erectile dysfunction in men.

Here are 3 main ways smoking can damage the body:

1. Smoking can cause tooth and gum disease

Cigarette smoke releases around 5000 chemicals when inhaled which can affect the flow of saliva in the mouth and therefore allow oral bacteria to build up on the teeth and gums. Oral bacteria initially form a thin white film on the surface of the teeth and on the gum line which can harden to form tartar or calculus if not cleaned daily. Tartar can only be removed by professionals and can cause gum or periodontal disease, leading to blood infection and tooth loss by attacking the roots. (Sudhir, TED-Ed, 2018)

Smoking can also limit blood flow to the gums, causing delayed healing after oral surgery as well as spotting and bad breath if continued for a long time.

According to a study by WebMD, about 9 out of 10 people diagnosed with cancer of the lips, mouth or throat are smokers, with smokers also being 6 times more likely to develop mouth cancer than non-smokers. .

(Ameritas, 2015)

2. Smoking can increase the risk of lung damage

In terms of the effects of smoking on the lungs, smoke can increase the risk of infection and chronic diseases such as emphysema and bronchitis. Tar and smoke can damage the cilia that line the lungs. They are fine hair-like structures that carry mucus to the back of the throat to be coughed up or swallowed, basically to “keep the lungs clean”. This can cause toxic chemicals to build up in the lining of the lungs. (Sudhir, TED-Ed, 2018)

Harmful smoke can enter the alveoli, which are tiny air sacs in the lungs responsible for gas exchange. This means that poisonous carbon monoxide can diffuse into the blood. Hemoglobin is a protein that binds oxygen to transport it to cells, but carbon monoxide takes the place of oxygen and causes oxygen starvation and shortness of breath. (Sudhir, TED-Ed, 2018)

3. Smoking can increase the risk of cardiovascular and heart disease

Nicotine, a stimulant, is transported to the brain by the blood within 10 seconds of inhaling cigarette smoke, causing the release of dopamine and endorphins. These “feel-good hormones” can make smoking very addictive. The chemicals in cigarettes, such as nicotine, cause blood vessels to constrict, which damages their thin endothelium lining, which worsens with continued smoking. Damage to this lining restricts blood flow due to thickening of the vessel walls and greater adherence of blood platelets, leading to an increased risk of clots forming, triggering heart attack, angina pectoris and heart failure. stroke. (Sudhir, TED-Ed, 2018)

These chemicals don’t just affect the smoker. According to the CDC, 58 million people were exposed to second-hand smoke from 2013 to 2014. Approximately 7,000 chemicals can be inhaled through passive smoking and these chemicals, 70 of which have been shown to cause cancer, can trigger dangerous mutations in DNA such as arsenic and nickel. Both of these metals can hamper the body’s cancer-fighting mechanisms by disrupting the DNA repair process. About 30% of cancer deaths are due to smoking. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021)

To help those struggling with tobacco addiction, please visit the Quit Association website:


Mentioned works

Ameritas, 2015. Ameritas – Oral Health – 4 Ways Smoking Affects Teeth and Gums. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ameritasinsight.com/wellness/dental/4-ways-smoking-affects-teeth-and-gums
[Accessed 31 03 2022].

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Second-hand smoke (SHS Facts). [Online]
Available at: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[Accessed 31 03 2022].

Sudhir, TED-Ed, 2018. TED-Ed. [Online]
Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y18Vz51Nkos
[Accessed 31 03 2022].

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