It is a well-known fact that smoking causes disease, death, and other biological changes to the body of a smoker and to the bystanders who inhale second-hand smoke. For the smoker, though, the situation is dire. A heavy smoker can lose up to 25 years of their natural life. How is this a known fact? Statistics comparing the lifespan of smokers, non-smokers, heavy smokers, and light smokers have all been analyzed. If you smoke, keep in mind that one cigarette is equivalent to a loss of 11 minutes of your life. Thus, if you smoke a pack a day, you cut your life short by approximately two months every year. Is this really worth it?
How does this happen? How is age affected so dramatically? The CDC estimates that there are more than 7000 chemicals, 400+ of which are carcinogenic, in a cigarette. Many of these chemicals are not rigorously tested by scientists to see exactly what they do to our bodies. But if you look at the side by side pictures of smokers and non-smokers, you can easily tell who smokes and who doesn’t. This is because the toxic chemicals in tobacco cause many things to happen including cataract formation, psoriasis, thinning hair, and sagging skin and less supple skin (resulting in massive wrinkling at an early age). Free radicals are released in the body of a smoker.
These free radicals are known to accelerate the aging process because of their toxic effects on the body and all its organs. In addition, smoking causes your vasculature to constrict, pulling needed blood supply away from areas like the skin. When this happens, the collagen that keeps your skin supple and pliant begins to break down. There is very little, short of a great deal of plastic surgery, that doctors can do once collagen breaks down.
In addition, smokers have to pucker their lips in order to pull on the cigarette. They also typically squint their eyes to keep from getting smoke in their eyes. Both of these facial movements cause a very distinct wrinkling pattern around the eyes and lips. Smoking also thickens the vocal cords, making a smoker’s voice deep and gravelly. As collagen breaks down in the body, skin wrinkles many years in advance of when it typically wrinkles. If the smoker is a woman in her 40s or 50s, she may experience a rapid loss of bone due to tobacco.
Smoking accelerates osteoporosis, which subsequently causes women to hunch over, shrink, and essentially look like an old woman. When there is bone loss, it is much more difficult to gain muscle strength, because there is less of a supportive frame. So even if a smoking woman worked out, she would not get the results a non-smoker gets from the same workout.
If that is not enough, think about the damage the free radicals and mutagenic substances are doing to the rest of your organs. Constriction of blood vessels makes it harder for the heart to pump and also helps create a good foundation for plaque buildup. All of the organs are also affected adversely. The absolute best thing you can do for yourself and for your life expectancy is to stop smoking.