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Smoking In-Depth

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Please copy/paste the following text to properly cite this HowStuffWorks article:
ADAM. "Smoking In-Depth." 03 April 2007. HowStuffWorks.com.
<http://healthguide.howstuffworks.com/smoking-in-depth.htm> 16 December 2008.

Inside this Article


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7.

Introduction
Nicotine Addiction
Health Risks
Quitting Smoking
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Failure to Quit
See more
7. Lifestyle Changes
8. Lots More Information
9. See all S-U articles
Health Videos

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Health Risks
Effects on the Lungs

According to the American Lung Association, smoking is directly responsible for about 90
percent of the deaths due to lung cancer. Smoking is also responsible for the majority of deaths
due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic
bronchitis.
A study in the July 2006 American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine showed
that smokers with asthma who give up smoking can improve their lung function in as little as 1
week. The small study involved 21 smokers with asthma. Ten of them quit smoking for 10
weeks, while the others continued to smoke. After just a week, lung function test scores in those
who stopped smoking improved considerably. In less than 2 months, lung function scores among
those who stopped smoking improved by more than 15%.
Study authors say their findings show that there is a reversible component to the harmful effects
of smoking on the airways in asthma.
Secondhand Smoke
Secondhand smoke is produced by a burning cigarette or other tobacco product. An estimated 4
million children a year get sick from being around secondhand smoke. Parental smoking has
been shown to affect the lungs of infants as early as the first 2 - 10 weeks of life, and such
abnormal lung function could persist throughout life.
Exposure to secondhand smoke in the home increases the risk for asthma and asthma-related
emergency room visits in children who have existing asthma.
Parental smoking is believed to increase the risk for lower respiratory tract infections (such as
bronchitis or pneumonia) by 50%. Environmental exposure to smoke is thought to be responsible
for 150,000 - 300,000 such cases of such every year.
Effects on the Heart and Blood Vessels
All forms of tobacco raise one's heart attack risk. Smoking, chewing tobacco, and being exposed
to secondhand smoke greatly increase ones risk of a heart attack. In some cases, the risk of heart
problems in people who smoke or are epoxed to smoke may be three times greater, according to
a study published in the Lancet. However, the study also found that the risk of a heart attack
among those who stopped smoking slowly decreased over time.
Effects on Male Fertility and Impotence
Smoking has a negative affect on a man's sexuality and fertility. Heavy smoking is frequently
cited as a contributory factor in impotence because it decreases the amount of blood flowing into
the penis. One study noted that among men with high blood pressure, smoking caused a 26-fold
increase in impotence.
Smoking impairs sperm motility, reduces sperm lifespan, and may cause genetic changes that can
affect a man's offspring. One 2002 trial found that men or women who smoke have lower success
rates with fertility treatments. An earlier study reported that men who smoke also have lower sex
drives and less frequent sex.
Effects on Pregnancy and Female Infertility
Studies have linked cigarette smoking to many reproductive problems. Continuing to smoke
during pregnancy may also cause health problems in the baby.
Negative effects of smoking on female fertility include:
Greater risk for infertility. Women at greatest risk for fertility problems are those who
smoke one or more packs a day and who started smoking before age 18.

Earlier menopause. Women who smoke tend to start menopause at an earlier age than
nonsmokers, perhaps because toxins in cigarette smoke damage eggs.
Pregnancy complications. Women who smoke have a greater risk for ectopic pregnancy
and miscarriage.

Click the icon to see an image of an ectopic pregnancy.


Effects on Unborn Child. Smoking during pregnancy is harmful to an unborn child in many
ways. Smoking reduces the mother's folate levels, a B vitamin that is important for preventing
birth defects. Pregnant women who smoke increase the risk for stillbirth, prematurity, and low
birth weight in their babies. Infant mortality rates in pregnant smokers are increased by 33%,
mostly because of low birth rate.
Some women carry particular genes that may make it especially likely that they will deliver low
birth weight infants if they smoke, although newborns of all female smokers have a greater risk
for low weight.
The good news is that women who quit before becoming pregnant or even during the first
trimester reduce the risk for a low birth weight baby to that of women who never smoked.
Children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy may also be at increased risk for obesity and
diabetes.
Women who want to become pregnant should try smoking cessation aids before they try to
conceive and make all attempts to quit. If new mothers cannot quit, they should be sure not to
smoke in the same room as their infant. This simple behavior can considerably reduce the risks to
the child.
Effects on Bones and Joints
Smoking has many harmful effects on bones and joints:
Smoking can keep new bone from forming. Women who smoke are at high risk for loss
of bone density and osteoporosis.

Click the icon to see an image of osteoporosis.


Postmenopausal women who smoke have a significantly greater risk for hip fracture than
those who do not.
Smokers are more apt to develop degenerative disorders and injuries in the spine.

Smokers have more trouble recovering from surgeries, including knee or hip
replacements.
Smokers whose jobs involve lifting heavy objects are more likely to develop low back
pain than nonsmokers.

Smoking may increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in some older women. A 2006
study in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases showed that smoking nearly doubled the risk
of rheumatoid arthritis in postmenopausal women who did not have the most established
genetic risk factor for the disease, a genotype called HLA-DRB1 SE.

Click the icon to see an image of rheumatoid arthritis.


Smoking and Diabetes
Smoking may increase the risk of developing diabetes. Researchers involved in the Insulin
Resistance Atherosclerosis Study (IRAS) looked at the relationship between smoking and
diabetes and found that 25% of smokers who started the trial with normal blood sugar had
diabetes 5 years later compared to 14% of non-smokers. The results were published in Diabetes
Care.
A study released in 2006 supports earlier beliefs that smokers have a higher risk of developing
glucose intolerance, a condition that precedes diabetes. The study, published in the British
Medical Journal, involved 4,572 people. The findings suggest that chemicals in smoke could
affect the pancreas. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin, which helps control blood
sugar (glucose) levels.
Smoking and the Gastrointestinal Tract
Smoking increases acid production in the stomach. It also reduces blood flow and production of
compounds that protect the stomach lining.
Diverticulitis. A 2000 study suggested that smoking was a major risk factor in diverticulitis, a
condition in which small bumps develop in the wall of the colon. In addition, smokers were at
risk for complications from diverticulitis, including bleeding and abscess. Diverticulitis mostly
affects people over age 50.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Smoking has mixed effects on inflammatory bowel disease.
Inflammatory bowel disease is the collective term for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
Smokers have been shown to have lower than average rates of ulcerative colitis, but higher than
average rates of Crohn's disease. Smokers with Crohn's disease who quit are said to have less
severe symptoms.

Click the icon to see an image of inflammatory bowel disease.


Peptic Ulcers. Results of studies on the effect of smoking on ulcers are mixed. Some evidence
suggests that smoking delays the healing of gastric and duodenal ulcers. One 1999 study reported
that after ulcers healed, about half of smokers relapsed after a year, and that all heavy smokers
relapsed after 3 months. Other studies, however, have found no increased risk for ulcers in
smokers. Smoking does not appear to increase susceptibility to Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori),
the bacteria that causes many peptic ulcers.

Click the icon to see an image of peptic ulcers.


Hepatitis and Cirrhosis. Smoking is linked to increased liver scarring (cirrhosis) caused by either
excessive drinking or chronic hepatitis B or C viruses.
Smoking and Thyroid Disease
Cyanide, a chemical found in tobacco smoke, interferes with thyroid hormone production.
Smoking triples the risk for developing thyroid disease, particularly hyperthyroidism and
hypothyroidism. Women smokers with subclinical hypothyroidism (a symptom-free condition in
which the thyroid gland is mildly underactive) have a higher risk for developing full-blown
hypothyroidism than their nonsmoking peers. Smoking has also been linked to goiter, a swelling
of the thyroid that occurs in people who do not get enough iodine.

Click the icon to see an image of the thyroid.


Smoking and Surgical Recovery
Smokers are at increased risk for heart and circulatory problems and delayed wound healing after
surgery. In one study, patients who were able to cut down or quit smoking 6 - 8 weeks prior to
knee or hip replacement surgery were much less likely to suffer complications.
Smoking and Disorders Related to Aging
The following are age-related conditions that occur at higher rates in smokers than non-smokers:
Cataracts. Quitting smoking lowers the likelihood of needing cataract surgery in the
future, although not to the level seen with non-smokers.

Click the icon to see an image of a cataract.


Macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people. Symptoms of
macular degeneration include a loss of central vision, which makes it difficult to read.
Gum disease and tooth loss. A government study found that more than half of the cases of
severe gum disease in adults in the United States may be due to cigarette smoking.
Wrinkles. Studies confirm that smokers are nearly five times more likely to develop more
and deeper wrinkles as they age compared to non-smokers.
Baldness and premature gray hair. Certain chemicals in smoke break down in hair cells,
which leads to hair damage.

Hearing loss, particularly high-frequency hearing loss. Some experts believe that losing
the ability to hear high pitched sound in smokers may be due to a decrease in blood flow
to the cochlea, the part of the ear that carries sound to the brain.
Incontinence. One study of 600 women indicated that smokers and former smokers are
twice as likely to develop incontinence as women who never smoked.