How do cigarettes affect the body?

Written by cathryn whitehead
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Cigarettes affect your entire body in a negative way. Eight seconds after you inhale cigarette smoke, nicotine (the chief active principle of tobacco) reaches your brain and stimulates pleasure centres. You like the feeling, so you smoke again. Your body eventually builds up a tolerance for tobacco and you need more to get the good feeling. Eventually, you realise how much you're harming your body and you decide to quit. But not smoking gives you headaches and makes you grouchy, restless, depressed and hungry. You're addicted, and the chances that you'll be able to quit are only one in 10, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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Effects of Cigarettes on Your Body

According to an August 2008 American Cancer Society study, smoking lowers the amount of oxygen in your body. Tiny air sacs in the lungs are damaged as soon as smoke hits them. Lack of oxygen leads to lack of energy. This, along with diseases caused by the cigarettes (such as emphysema, tuberculosis, cancer, bronchitis, asthma and pneumonia), eventually destroys your lungs.

Smoking also affects your circulation. The cilia that move cells through blood in your body are damaged. Blood vessels are damaged. Your heart beats faster and your blood pressure goes up. Smoking cigarettes can cause heart disease and strokes.

Cigarettes negatively affect your sex organs and reproductive system. According to a 1996 study by the American Council on Science and Health, men who smoke are twice as likely to have problems getting an erection. The sperm count is lower and the sperm don't move around as much. Women who smoke are more likely to get breast and cervical cancer. Conceiving a child is more difficult for female smokers, and menopause comes earlier for them. Pregnant women who smoke can miscarry, have a baby with a low birth weight, or have a premature or stillborn baby. Babies with smoking parents are more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Breastfeeding mothers who smoke should know that tar and nicotine are passed to their babies through breast milk.

Your stomach and kidneys don't perform effectively if you smoke. Cigarettes can irritate and cause inflammation in the intestines and stomach, and painful ulcers can form, according to a July 2007 study by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Your skin wrinkles quickly because of poor circulation. You have bad breath, yellow and brown stains on your teeth, Diagnostic tests can be inaccurate, and smoking cigarettes can affect the way your medication works.

Cigarettes Affect Nonsmokers

People who don't smoke are affected by the cigarette smoke in their environment. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 3,000 nonsmokers died of lung cancer in 1999 because of second-hand smoke. The American Cancer Society's November 1999 study on second-hand smoke proved nonsmokers develop lung cancer, heart disease and many other illnesses from inhaling somebody else's cigarette smoke. Children also suffer damage from second-hand smoke: They're more likely to have respiratory problems, asthma, infections and other illnesses. Babies' lungs are too tiny to be able to tolerate cigarette smoke, and being around smoke can make it difficult for them to breathe.

There are better ways than smoking to handle stress that won't kill you and those around you. Knowing how cigarettes affect your body is good motivation to find them.

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