How Does Smoking Tobacco Affect The Body?
It is common knowledge that nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco, but the burning of a tobacco cigarette creates thousands of chemical compounds – again it is well known that several of these are responsible for causing cancer, but perhaps less well known is the fact that these chemicals will harm nearly every organ in the human body.
Some of the most dangerous components of tobacco smoke include tar (the collective name for the various particles that are suspended in tobacco smoke – several of these are cancer causing substances), the oxygen reducing carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide which stops our lung clearance system from working properly and free radicals which are highly reactive chemicals capable of damaging blood vessels and heart muscles. Also included in the smoke are carcinogenic dangerous metals and radioactive compounds.
As previously stated, nearly every organ in the human body will be harmed by tobacco smoke – for a start the stimulant nicotine goes to the brain incredibly quickly and although it provides that buzz, after smoking it can make the user feel depressed, anxious and nervous. Smoking tobacco can also cause headaches and dizziness. The mouth is another area that will suffer – besides the staining of the teeth and bad breath; tobacco will ruin taste buds reducing the pleasant effects of eating nice foods, cause bleeding gums and cancers of both the mouth and throat.
Smoking tobacco plays havoc with many different systems of the human body. The effects of tobacco smoke on the respiratory system include irritation of the windpipe and voice box, increased risk of lung infection, permanent damage to the air sacs of the lungs and narrowing of the airways – causing breathlessness.
The effects on the circulatory system include an increased heart rate, raised blood pressure, tightening of blood vessels in the skin, damage to the lining of the arteries and reduced blood flow to areas such as our fingers and toes plus less oxygen carried by the blood. Tobacco smoke effectively makes the blood stickier and hence more prone to clotting plus the blockages to the blood supply will lead to a greater risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Other systems are also damaged by tobacco smoke including reduced bone density and muscle tightening with the effects on our musculoskeletal system and greater susceptibility to prolonged illnesses due to the immune system also being affected. There are even effects to our sexual organs – on the male body tobacco smoke can cause genetic damage to sperm, a lower sperm count and impotence while effects on the female body include reduced fertility, an increased risk of cancer of the cervix, irregularities with the menstrual cycle and even the menopause being reached a couple of years earlier.
In summary, long term tobacco smoking can cause several different cancers, chronic lung diseases, heart diseases, attacks and strokes, ulcers of the digestive system, hip fracture and poor blood circulation in hands and feet which in extreme cases will lead to amputation.
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