What does smoking actually do to your body?
You are probably well aware by now of the negative consequences of smoking. Perhaps well-meaning friends and family remind you on a regular basis. Yep, we’ve all heard it.
It’s true that smoking impacts your body as well as your bank balance. But what does smoking actually do to your body?
Physical effects of smoking
There’s no denying the harmful effects of smoking on your physical body. In the US, 1 in every 5 deaths are caused by smoking every year. Every puff of a cigarette exposes you to harmful chemicals that can wreak havoc with your health.
- Carcinogens - including benzene and formaldehyde, these chemicals cause cancer
- Poisons - these cause physical illness and death, nicotine is one of them
- Toxic metals - harmful substances including arsenic and cadmium that damage the body
- Radioactive toxic metals - poisonous metals like lead and polonium
Each cigarette you smoke exposes your body to around 7000 different chemicals! So let’s take a look at the ways smoking can affect your body.
One of the most visible effects of smoking is the damage it does to your skin. As a smoker, your skin ages faster than your non-smoking peers. The chemicals inhaled in smoke break down the collagen and elastin in your skin. Without them, your skin feels loose and causes fine lines to appear around your eyes and mouth. These can turn into permanent wrinkles.
An unhappy heart
From the moment you smoke your first cigarette, your heart becomes damaged. The chemicals contained in cigarettes are transported around the body through your blood. They damage your heart and blood vessels causing high blood pressure and poor circulation. Long term, this can lead to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, strokes and hypertension. Heart disease is four times more likely for a smoker than a non-smoker. So quitting nicotine makes your heart much happier.
It’s not actually the nicotine to blame for the lung damage, it’s the tar. That’s the black, sticky substance created when certain chemicals are burnt together. The tar damages your cilia. These little tiny hairs line your airways. They have a very important function in helping you breathe easily. Because of this damage, your risk of respiratory infections increases. It also makes oxygen exchange less effective, so you are likely to feel out of breath. When you kick the habit, your lungs start to feel the benefit after only a few weeks.
Your mouth and gums
When you smoke, your teeth are coated in tar which discolours them, ruining your pearly whites. The risk of gum disease and mouth cancer increases dramatically for smokers compared to non-smokers. Thankfully, most of the changes in your mouth caused by smoking are reversible. By giving up smoking, your breath will smell sweet once again and your smile will shine brighter.
Smoking is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. The nicotine in cigarettes interferes with the way your body uses insulin. Smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-smokers. Nicotine makes insulin less effective and higher levels of insulin are needed to stabilise blood sugar levels.
The nicotine in cigarettes can lead to damage in your brain. Smoking speeds up the thinning of the cortex. This area of the brain controls your higher level thinking and memory. When damaged, it results in cognitive decline - so you’ll forget things and won’t be able to think clearly. Yes, it’s the pesky nicotine again. It mimics neurotransmitters in the brain so that your brain becomes dependent on receiving the next dose.
Fertility and pregnancy issues
Smoking reduces sperm counts and contributes to erectile dysfunction. The harmful chemicals in cigarettes can damage sperm and eggs which increases the chance of miscarriage. Smokers are twice as likely to have problems getting pregnant than non-smokers. Smoking whilst pregnant poses a huge risk to the unborn baby. If you are planning on becoming a parent, quitting nicotine is the best thing you can do.
Your risk of cancer increases dramatically. Why? Along with 70 known carcinogens, there are over 7000 different chemicals entering the body. Inhaling these on a regular basis can lead to cancer growth. And it’s not just lung cancer, it can occur in any part of your body. The chemicals transported in your bloodstream damage your DNA. This can trigger cells to grow abnormally and become cancerous.
Smoking suppresses your immune system. This leaves you open to catching infections and bugs. Shaking off that cold is much harder when your immune system isn’t functioning as it should.
Mental effects of smoking
Nicotine releases dopamine in the brain. This happy chemical makes us feel good. That’s why cigarettes are stimulants. When you smoke, the nicotine takes only 10 seconds to reach the pleasure receptors in your brain. However, it also increases feelings of anxiety. The happy effects wear off and it becomes a constant battle to keep nicotine levels up.
Many people believe that smoking relaxes them and is a great stress-buster. In fact, smokers are more likely to suffer from mental health disorders than non-smokers. Although many people believe that smoking eases their stress, this is only a temporary fix. In the long term, you are just reducing your withdrawal symptoms to nicotine rather than addressing the root cause.
Many people aren’t aware of the negative impact nicotine has on sleep. You might believe that a smoke before snooze time makes you feel relaxed. Studies have shown that smokers actually find it more difficult to get to sleep. They have poorer sleep quality and their sleep cycles are affected. It is also a risk for insomnia. So if you value your zzz’s, ditch the cigarettes and opt for a nicotine-free alternative.
Smoking is highly addictive. This is due to that pesky nicotine again. Nicotine dependence means that when you quit, you will go through a psychological withdrawal. Although withdrawal symptoms can be a nightmare to cope with, the good news is that they will disappear. Most smokers are through the worst of it in two weeks. After nine months, all your symptoms are likely to have gone completely. It’s definitely a classic case of no pain, no gain.
How to stop smoking to protect your body
You’ve guessed it - the best way to prevent smoking from damaging your body is to give it up! Nowadays, there are so many smoking cessation products that can support you on your quit journey. With so many benefits to quitting smoking, you’ll wish you did it sooner. There’s really no reason for you to not take the first step towards your nicotine-free life.
At Ripple+ HQ, we know all about the benefits of aromatherapy. Essential oils have the power to boost your mood and make you feel happier. Reaching for a relaxing Ripple+ puff instead of a cigarette is the best choice for you and your body. The soothing properties of the essential oils calm your mind without harming your body.
We know breaking the cycle of nicotine dependence takes effort, time and patience. It’s not an easy road, but there are immediate and long lasting benefits. Your body will definitely thank you for it.