Tobacco use causes damage to the lungs, heart and other organs of the body. The amount of nicotine in a cigarette is not known, but it is estimated that in a typical cigarette it is about 80% tobacco and 20% chemical-based additives.

Smoking at any age is dangerous to your health and makes you more likely to develop other serious illnesses including coronary heart disease, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and mouth cancer.

Tobacco-related diseases cost the UK £13 billion each year.

Central nervous system

One of the ingredients in tobacco is a mood-altering drug called nicotine. Cigarettes, it turns out, are packed with nicotine and can actually alter your mood. When you smoke, it produces feelings of relaxation and euphoria. But it also affects your heart, respiratory system, immune system, and brain. These changes, scientists say, can lead to depression and anxiety.

Your skin

When you smoke, you expose your body to nicotine and tar, which are skin-drying toxins. Smoking also produces a build-up of the proteins found in tobacco (benzene and toluene) in your blood, along with the carbon monoxide produced by burning tobacco. Over time, these chemicals can irritate the skin.

Your mouth

Elevated levels of the nicotine metabolite cotinine, which is produced in the mouth when you smoke, can lead to mouth, throat, and lung cancers.

Your nose

Smoking decreases levels of nitric oxide, an antioxidant that helps your nose and sinuses breathe. It also leads to more sinus infections and swelling.

Your lungs

Smoking can cause serious damage to the lungs by speeding up the progress of diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to the American Lung Association. In fact, smoking has been tied to a higher risk of developing certain lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer.

Your heart

Smoking raises your blood pressure and causes your blood to clot more easily. Cotinine, a chemical produced in the mouth when you smoke, can block blood from clotting, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Smoking can also raise the risk of heart failure. The risk is especially high among people who are overweight or who are African American, or both. (Low-income people are also more likely to die from heart failure than richer people.)

Your brain

There’s a lot more research being done on the effects of smoking on the brain, but it’s clear that it does: tobacco can damage your brain and make it less resilient. And according to the Tobacco Free Kids report, if people who smoke had been asked to quit smoking 25 years ago, we might be talking about significantly lower rates of mental illness and dementia in our seniors.

Heart Attack

Like all cardiovascular risks, smoking increases the risk of a heart attack. Smoking raises your blood pressure, which can cause clots in the blood. The risk for heart attack is also higher in people who already have heart disease.

Trouble breathing

Smoking can lead to trouble breathing because it reduces the amount of air your lungs can breathe in and out of your body, according to the American Lung Association. And because smoking increases your heart rate, it can also make it harder for your lungs to work properly.

High blood pressure

Smoking can increase your blood pressure, which could lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

Pulmonary disease

Smoking can also make it harder for your lungs to function properly, which can affect your respiratory health.

Lung cancer

Smoking also increases your risk of lung cancer, especially if you smoke more than 15 cigarettes a day.

How to Quit Smoking

To quit smoking, you need to stop smoking altogether. But that doesn’t mean you can’t slowly reduce your exposure to cigarettes. The Smoke-Free Kids report recommends trying to smoke a few extra cigarettes a day, but avoiding more than a pack a day.

Nicotine Patches

There are also several FDA-approved smoking cessation products that might help you kick the habit. Nicotine patches and gum can help you gradually reduce the amount of nicotine in your body without actually smoking. Talk to your doctor about your options, or get in touch with your local health department for referrals.


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