The 20 harmful effects of tobacco on our health - medical - 2023



Every 6 seconds a smoker dies in the world. And is that tobacco, despite being legal, is one of the most destructive drugs both physically and emotionally. Not only does it make us susceptible to countless diseases, it also damages our mood and alters behavior more than we think.

When we smoke, with each inhalation we are introducing more than 7,000 different chemical substances into our body, of which at least 250 have been shown to be harmful and toxic to human health. And of these, 69 are carcinogenic.

Hence, smoking is directly responsible for all types of cancers, in addition to endangering the functionality of all our vital organs, with the pathologies that are linked to it: hypertension, heart failure, kidney damage, skin aging, pulmonary pathologies , etc.

  • We recommend you read: "The 25 myths about smoking, debunked"

But, to what extent does tobacco harm our physical and emotional health? In today's article we will answer this question, because in addition to reviewing the impact on global health, we will see everything that smoking causes in our body.

What is the impact of tobacco on global health?

In the world there are about 1,100 million smokers and, as we have said, tobacco kills one person every 6 seconds. It is only necessary to do the numbers to realize that we are facing one of the greatest threats to global public health.

Due to the pathologies that it causes and that we will analyze later, tobacco kills 8 million people each year. Of these, 7 million are active smokers, but up to 1 million are people who do not smoke and who die from living with someone who does, that is, they are passive smokers.

In one way or another, tobacco kills half of its users: of every two people who smoke, one will die as a direct consequence of this tobacco. Not to mention that each year more than 65,000 children die from living with smoking parents.

Because even though smoke-free laws are becoming more prevalent, as long as tobacco remains legal, these numbers will only increase. And it is that tobacco is, perhaps, the worst known poison.

  • We recommend you read: "The 25 myths about smoking, debunked"

What effects does smoking have on our health?

Tobacco is so harmful because with each inhalation of the smoke, we are introducing 250 toxic chemicals directly into our lungs that not only damage these lung cells, but also pass into the blood and circulate throughout the body, slowly but continuously damaging any organ and body tissue.

Over time, the risk of developing at least one of the problems related to tobacco that we will see below is maximum.

1. Reduce oxygenation

Due to the toxins in smoke, tobacco prevents the lung alveoli, the structures that regulate gas exchange during respiration, from working properly, so we "capture" less oxygen from the air. This, along with the fact that toxins prevent red blood cells from carrying so much oxygen, causes us to enter a state of hypoxemia. Less oxygen flows through our blood and all the cells in our body "suffocate."

2. Increases the risk of cancer

Tobacco use is the leading cause of the development of lung cancer, the most common and deadly type of cancer in the world with more than 2 million new diagnoses and more than 1 million deaths. Of every 10 cases that are diagnosed, 9 are in smokers. But it doesn't just cause lung cancer. Throat, pancreas, kidney, cervix, colorectal, esophagus, mouth ... All of these have a higher risk of developing in people who smoke.

3. Reduces fertility

Due to the effect of toxins circulating in the blood, smoking has been shown to reduce fertility in both men and women. In men, it is also a direct cause of erectile dysfunction. And in women it causes vaginal dryness and other problems that hinder proper sexual health.

4. Promotes the formation of blood clots

Because of the damage it causes to blood vessels, smoking greatly increases the risk of blood clots or thrombi. Obviously, this makes the chances of having a heart attack or stroke much higher among smokers.

5. Causes hypertension

When the toxins in tobacco flow through our bloodstream, the heart rate shoots up, so the blood pressure inevitably rises. And since these toxins are constantly in the blood in smokers, hypertension never goes away. This explains why tobacco is behind many cases of cardiovascular diseases, which, with its 15 million deaths, are the leading cause of death in the world.

6. It makes you lose your senses

The toxins in tobacco also affect the nervous system, "making it sleepy." And it is that these substances prevent neurons from communicating adequately with each other, reducing synaptic capacity and, therefore, making it difficult to transmit information to the brain. This explains why people who smoke lose their taste for smell and taste to a greater or lesser extent.

7. Weakens blood vessels

The walls of the blood vessels are very sensitive. And if hundreds of different toxins are constantly circulating in the blood, they end up weakening. Blood vessels are injured and narrow. This, along with hypertension and the fact that the blood thickens, increases the risk of clots.

8. Causes vision problems

When we smoke and expel the smoke, toxins also damage our eyes. And is that smoking is as bad for the eyes as for any other part of the body. Macular degeneration and cataracts are two pathologies whose risk of appearance is much higher among smokers and that can cause loss of vision and even blindness.

  • We recommend you read: "The 10 most common eye diseases (causes, symptoms and treatment)"

9. Prevents proper wound healing

The toxins in tobacco, once flowing through the blood, prevent platelets from working normally. This makes it more difficult for blood to clot when cut and difficult for smokers to heal wounds quickly.

10. Increases the risk of premature death

Smokers live, on average, 13 years less than people who have never smoked. This enormous reduction in life expectancy is due to all the pathologies, especially oncological, cardiovascular and pulmonary that we are discussing.

11. Causes breathing difficulties

Cough, mucus, shortness of breath ... Tobacco is the substance that most damages our lungs, irritating the entire respiratory system, filling it with toxins and preventing lung cells from working normally, as it causes the bronchi to narrow and the alveoli not They can deliver enough oxygen to the blood or remove all the carbon dioxide that needs to be removed from the bloodstream.

This explains that smoking not only causes lung cancer, but other respiratory diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or lung infections, each responsible for more than 3 million deaths annually.

12. Causes bad breath

Smoking makes your breath smell bad. Although this does not directly affect physical health, it is an important social problem, since it compromises the ability to relate to other people.

13. Causes yellowing of teeth

The nicotine and tar in cigarettes accumulate on the surface of the teeth and give them a yellowish coloration. Along with bad breath, this is a major social problem.

14. Affects oral health

Due to the toxins that accumulate in the mouth and the effect on blood circulation, smoking greatly increases the risk of tooth decay or periodontitis, caused by pathogens that take advantage of this oral weakness to infect the teeth and gums. These pathologies, in addition to affecting the image level, can cause tooth loss.

15. Promotes the premature appearance of wrinkles

The skin is one more organ of our body and, in fact, it is the largest. Therefore, you are clearly not free from the harm caused by tobacco. Toxic substances also compromise the functionality of the cells of the epidermis, which do not receive enough oxygen. This causes them to weaken more quickly and wrinkles appear much earlier than genetics had prepared for us.

16. Increases the risk of miscarriage

It has been proven that women smokers, no matter how much they quit smoking during pregnancy, have a much higher risk of having a miscarriage. And it is that all the toxins that flow through your blood can cause the death of the fetus.

17. Affects bone health

Bones are still living structures in our body and made up of cells, so despite their strong and robust appearance, they are not free from the damage caused by the toxins of tobacco. It is proven that smoking weakens the bones and greatly increases the risk of suffering from diseases such as osteoporosis, which, in turn, makes the person more susceptible to fractures even with slight falls or blows.

18. Compromises mental health

Irritability, anxiety, stress, nervousness, sadness, difficulty concentrating, dependency… The impact that smoking has on mental health can never be underestimated. And the fact is that the emotional damage it causes can cause problems in all areas of life: work, love relationships, with friends, with family, etc.

19. Increases susceptibility to infections

The toxins in tobacco also affect the immune system, "numbing" the immune cells that must detect and kill pathogens and any external threats. This loss of function of the immune system makes smokers more susceptible to infections, especially in the respiratory tract, such as pneumonia.

20. Increases the risk of diabetes

Endocrine health, that is, everything related to the synthesis and transport of hormones, is also compromised by tobacco. And it is that, in fact, it has been observed that smokers have a 40% greater risk of having problems either in the production or in the assimilation of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. This makes smoking behind many cases of type 2 diabetes.

  • To know more: "Diabetes: types, causes, symptoms and treatment"

Bibliographic references

  • University of Michigan (2017) "Myths about Tobacco Use". M Healthy.
  • Lugones Botell, M., Ramírez Bermúdez, M., Pichs García, L.A., Miyar Pieiga, E. (2006) "The consequences of smoking." Cuban Journal of Hygiene and Epidemiology.
  • Martín Ruiz, A., Rodríguez Gómez, I., Rubio, C. et al (2004) “Toxic effects of tobacco”. Journal of Toxicology.