Health Effects of Smoking

Written by Jennifer WaitersEach year, thousands of people lose their lives or suffer severe diseases directly due to smoking. In some cases, even non-smokers suffer due to second hand smoke. Quitting a cigarette habit has immediate and long-term benefits. Read on to learn why and how quitting can help you.

Why Bother to Quit Smoking?

It is general knowledge that smoking leads to cancer, however, the true impact of smoking is often ignored by many. Apart from cancer, smoking also causes a number of other painful, fatal diseases, such as emphysema, bronchitis and heart disease. Quitting today can result in noticeable benefits within twenty-four hours.

The Impact of Smoking on Health

While you may take steps to avoid chemicals in your food, did you know that there are over 4,000 dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes? Additionally, around four hundred of the substances are toxic. Most of the harmful residue is found in the butt. Among the most harmful by-products are tar, nicotine, and carbon monoxide.

Smoking and Life Expectancy

On average, smokers can expect to live an average of eight years less than their non-smoking peers. Besides this, each year many smokers die much younger when they succumb to fatal smoking-related illnesses. Smoking typically causes more deaths than AIDS, breast cancer, drugs, and even car accidents. Non-smokers not only live longer, but they also live healthier lives.

Smoking-Related Diseases


Heart disease is one of the main types caused by smoking. This dangerous habit hardens arteries, reducing normal blood flow, and causes blood clots. It can lead to heart attacks as well as strokes, causing brain damage. Significantly, 90% of those who undergo heart bypass surgery are smokers.


Statistically, smokers are struck with cancer far more than non-smokers. Some of the most common cancers that affect smokers are in the lungs, mouth, and throat. Apart from this, they can also incur cancer in the kidneys, bladder, pancreas, and other organs. The risk of contracting cancer increases with each day that you smoke.

Respiratory Diseases

Filling the lungs with smoke and carcinogens on a regular basis inevitably has a negative impact. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a condition that causes breathing difficulties and blocked airways. For example, smokers may succumb to conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema. Around 80% of COPD cases are caused by smoking.

Additional Health Risks

Apart from these main diseases, smoking also causes a number of other terrible conditions. Smokers often suffer high blood pressure, which raises their risk of heart attacks. Vision, smell and taste (as well as oral health) are commonly compromised. Smoking can also cause ulcers, bad breath, dry or yellowed skin, and weaker muscles.

Impotence Affected by Smoking

In male smokers, the risk of impotence (also known as erectile dysfunction) increases by fifty percent by the time they reach middle age. This occurs because of poor blood flow conditions in the whole body including the penis. Damaged blood vessels can become degenerated and worsens over time. Impotence is an early symptom that smoking is negatively impacting the body in other areas.

Second Hand Smoke Effects

While you smoke, you also affect other people in the area. Babies and children are especially susceptible to second-hand smoke. They can develop bronchitis or asthma, as well as an increased risk of allergies. Pregnant women who smoke also highly increase the risk of health issues in their babies.

Effect on Health Insurance Premiums

The Affordable Care Act allows insurers to charge a tobacco surcharge of 50% (with the exception of a few states) on top of the typical health insurance premiums that a non-smoker of the same age would pay. In addition, the surcharge % is calculated without factoring in premium tax credits (or income based subsidies). For example, if your health insurance premium was calculated at $500/mo. but your income makes you eligible for a $200 monthly subsidy. The surcharge would be 50% on the $500/mo or a $250/mo surcharge.

So on top of all the negative health effects of smoking, there is a clear economic impact on your health insurance premiums — above and beyond what you might pay for cigarettes themselves.

How to Start Quitting

Quitting smoking is difficult for many people, but there are a number of resources to help you get started. You might try an organized program, or start with a friend or family member to help you stay motivated. Some people also try nicotine patches or gum to help them transition to non-smoking. As you continue to quit, you will soon notice the benefits in your general health, senses, and well-being.