Smoking's Impact on Health Is Not Limited to Lung Cancer

Whether you're addicted to smoking or you want to know the connection between the phrase "quit smoking health benefit" or not, learning about smoking and health is important to making better decisions about smoking or might help you want to quit smoking more. Most smokers are aware of specific risks associated with smoking — cancer, emphysema, bronchitis — but smoking and health go hand-in-hand, since smoking impacts nearly all aspects of your health.


Smoking and the Heart

The effects of cigarette smoking on the cardiovascular system are multifold:

  • Smoking lowers HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol), even in adolescents.
  • Smoking deteriorates the elastic properties of the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, which increases the risk for developing blood clots.
  • Smoking increases the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, putting additional stress on the system that regulates the heart and blood vessels.
  • In women, smoking increases risk for cardiovascular disease because it effects hormones that cause estrogen deficiency.
  • Those who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day have almost two and a half times the risk for having a stroke as nonsmokers.


Smoking and Cancer

Smoking is the cause of nearly 85 percent of all cases of lung cancer in the United States, but smoking accounts for other types of cancers as well. Because cigarettes contain so many chemicals, cancer may develop from the accumulative effects of more than one of these carcinogens.

  • Tar from cigarettes causes specific DNA damage to the lungs, making it particularly difficult for cells to repair.
  • Smoking and smokeless tobacco (chew) account for over 60 percent of cancers of the throat, mouth and esophagus.
  • Smokers have higher rates of leukemia, and cancers of the stomach, bladder, kidney and pancreas.
  • About 30 percent of cervical cancers have been attributed to smoking.


Effects of Smoking on Bones and Joints

Smoking has many negative effects on bones and joints since it impairs formation of new bone. Women who smoke are at an exceptionally high risk for developing osteoporosis, and women smokers have a slightly increased chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Smokers are also more disposed to developing degenerative disorders and injuries in the spine.


Other Smoking-Related Disorders

  • Smoking increases acid secretion, reduces prostaglandin and bicarbonate production and decreases mucosal blood flow — which can cause peptic ulcers. Smoking also delays the healing of gastric and duodenal ulcers.
  • Cyanedim, a chemical found in cigarette smoke, interferes with thyroid hormone production, which can lead to thyroid disease.
  • Heavy smokers are at risk for developing cataracts of the eye, and smokers also have twice the risk of nonsmokers for developing macular degeneration, an age-related eye disorder.
  • Smokers look older than nonsmokers since smokers develop more and deeper wrinkles as they age.
  • Women who smoke are at greater risk for infertility. Those at greatest risk are women show smoke a pack or more per day, or those who started smoking before age 18.

For more common questions and expert answers on the impact of smoking on the body, visit