We’ve all heard the facts and seen the labels on the packages, so it’s unlikely that there is anyone left who doubts the negative health effects that smoking has on your body. The anti-smoking charity Ash believes that about 10 million people in the UK smoke cigarettes and a further two million smoke cigars, pipes or both.
Mostly men and mostly young, this stubborn societal subset has barely changed in size in recent years, and despite years of health campaigning it does not look like it will willingly change. So what will convince them and what are the known effects on the body?
Decades of research have shown an indisputable link between smoking and a wide range of ailments, some major and some with the potential to be downright embarrassing.
Everyone knows that smoking causes lung cancer. The ad campaigns have rightly focused on this as, according to Cancer Research UK, lung cancer has one of the lowest chances of survival of any of the known cancer and is the most common cause of cancer related death in the UK. Unfortunately, that is not the end of it.
There are myriad other less common cancers that have been shown to be more likely in smokers: “including cancers of the mouth, larynx (voice box), pharynx (upper throat), nose and sinuses, oesophagus (food pipe), liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bladder, cervix and bowel, as well as one type of ovarian cancer and some types of leukaemia. There is also some evidence that smoking could increase the risk of breast cancer.” (Cancer Research UK)
Studies in the US have shown that the myriad toxins in tobacco smoke hurt your blood cells. Often they can also damage the function of your heart and blood vessels. This damage increases your risk of atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a nasty ailment in which wax-like gunk called plaque accumulates in your arteries. Over time it hardens and narrows your arteries. This reduces the supply of oxygenated blood to your organs.
Coronary heart disease occurs if plaque builds up in the coronary arteries. CHD can result in chest pain, heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmias or possibly even death.
Your Love Life
A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine analysed a large body of research that indicated a link between smoking and erectile dysfunction.
Nicotine is known to be a vasoconstrictor, meaning it causes blood vessels to narrow and reduces blood flow. This constriction of the blood vessels to and in the penis is part of the reason nicotine reduces sexual arousal in men.
Furthermore, it has been reported that this can cause permanent damage to the blood vessels, which might make the problems of smoking related erectile dysfunction difficult to treat, let alone explain to the wife. Check out this fantastic infographic by Dr Fox on some other common health factors behind erectile dysfunction!
Quitting smoking and avoiding second hand smoke can help reverse heart and lung damage and reduce heart disease risk right away. Not smoking is an important part of a healthy lifestyle: quitting smoking is not impossible, but it can be tricky. Millions of people have successfully quit for good and if you are considering quitting there is a plethora of help available.
Alex Brakspear is a hobbyist blogger and burgeoning health nut with an affinity for knowledge and science. In his spare time, he devours music and is learning the guitar, wishing for more time in the day.