In 2017, an estimated 34.3 million Americans smoked cigarettes regularly. While the number of cigarette smokers have been decreasing over the years, this unhealthy habit still accounts for approximately 480,000 deaths per year. (1)
The terrible health effects that smoking has on your lungs is just the tip of the iceberg compared to the long-term health complications that can arise from it. If you smoke or anyone close to you does, then keep on reading to find out how smoking impacts your well-being.
What Smoking Does To Your Lungs
Many people are unaware of the side effects of smoking. Yes, your lungs suffer the most, but health problems can spread beyond this organ. Smoking can affect blood circulation, the heart, bones, mouth, throat, skin, reproductive system, stomach, and brain. (2)
Following are the risks that smoking poses on your respiratory health and lungs:
- Smoking weakens your immune system and makes you an easy target for colds and coughs. As your condition deteriorates, it can lead to more severe problems like pneumonia, emphysema, and lung cancer. Smoking is responsible for 84% of deaths from lung cancer and 83% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Smoking makes it harder to breathe by destroying your lung tissue and narrowing your airways. If you have COPD, then you will constantly find yourself out of breath when moving. Living with COPD means having to deal with persistent coughs with phlegm and frequent chest infections.
- Smoking causes more than 93% of oropharyngeal cancers (throat cancer).
Smoking Causes Inflammation
Smoking a cigarette a day can lead to inflammation in your lungs. Regular smoking restricts your air passages and makes it extremely difficult for you to breath. Any damage to the tiny air sacs in your lungs called alveoli lowers your ability to absorb oxygen, and since these air sacs don’t re-grow, the damage can become permanent.
Have you ever wondered why people who smoke are often fighting off an infection or cold? It happens because smoking paralyzes and kills the small hair in your airways called cilia. These hairs exist to clean out the dirt and mucus so that your lungs stay healthy and debris-free. When these hairs are not present, your risk of getting an infection increases because there’s nothing to filter out incoming contaminants.
Even if you somehow don’t develop any lung complications or lung cancer, smoking puts you at a higher risk of mortality than non-smokers. A study published in the BMJ Journals showed that male and female participants who had a habit of smoking at least 1 or 4 cigarettes a day were more likely to die from ischemic heart disease. The study also found that women were at greater risk of dying from lung cancer. (3)
What Happens When You Smoke for 20 years, Every Day
A nurse from North Carolina by the name of Amanda Eller uploaded the following videos on Facebook. The videos illustrate how a non-smokers’ and smokers’ lungs look like after 20 years. The first video shows her blowing air into the lungs of a smoker and the second video shows her blowing air into the lungs of a non-smoker.
You can easily tell which lungs were exposed to cigarettes based on the color.
Even when she pumps air into the lungs of the smoker, they hardly expand, whereas the other pair of lungs expand normally.
Despite the hundreds of studies done on how harmful smoking can be to our health, many still smoke because of stress, peer pressure, or out of habit. Remember, for every cigarette you smoke, you are inhaling more than 5,000 different chemicals, including tar and nicotine.
If you need to unwind, you can try coloring books, yoga, meditation, exercise and so on. As you can see, there are plenty of ways to go about it. Only you can bring positive changes to your lifestyle, and it’s alright to start small, as long as you end up kicking this addiction. Encourage your loved ones to do the same and get healthier together!