There is a lot of talk about the health hazards of smoking. But for all the talk out there, it isn’t always easy to find details. So what exactly are the effects of smoking? And what causes them?
The effects of smoking vary dramatically, depending on whether a smoker prefers cigarettes or cigars.
Effects of Smoking Cigarettes
The effects of smoking cigarettes are the most well known effects of smoking, partly because cigarettes are the most popular form of tobacco, and partly because of the horrifying diseases that can result.
Effects of Smoking on the Lungs
Damage to the lungs is caused primarily by cigarette smoke. Cigar smoke is not supposed to be inhaled, and so should not reach the lungs. Cigarette smoke contains tar. That tar gets into the lungs and clogs the alveoli, the tiny pockets in the lungs that take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. This is what causes the immediate effects of difficulty in breathing and coughing. Over time, the tar can cause further damage to the lung tissue, causing cancer, emphysema, or other fatal illness.
Effects of Smoking on the Heart and Circulatory System
Damage to the heart is a secondary effect of smoking. This means that smoking does not damage the heart directly, but that another effect of smoking causes damage to the heart: specifically, the damage to the lungs. When the alveoli are blocked by tar, and oxygen can’t enter the blood freely, the heart needs to work harder to get enough oxygen throughout the body. It is very similar to the damage causes by high cholesterol, except that high cholesterol forms a physical barrier in the blood vessels, where the tar causes a block in the oxygen supply. Additionally, because the heart needs to work harder, the body’s blood pressure increases. As you can see, damaging effects of smoking are something like falling dominoes. Each bit of damage causes a new problem.
Effects of Smoking Cigars
Because cigar smokers don’t inhale the smoke, they are not in danger of lung cancer and heart disease that affects smokers of cigarettes. Instead, effects of smoking cigars are mostly strongly felt in the mouth and throat. The effects of smoking cigars aren’t as newsworthy as those of cigarettes, but they aren’t any nicer.
Effects of Smoking on the Mouth and Nose
The earliest effects of smoking on the mouth and nose are the destruction of the glands that taste and smell. The image of the cigar smoker relaxing at home with a port after dinner is flawed, because after several years of smoking, he won’t be able to tell a good port from a bad one. The long term effects of smoking include cancer of the mouth and gums. While not as publicized as lung cancer, and not necessarily as deadly (if caught early) cancer of the mouth and gums is nothing to be taken lightly. While losing teeth is an accepted risk of old age, losing whole sections of jaw or tongue or needing to breathe through a hole in the throat for the rest of your life is nothing that anyone wants to contemplate.
Effects of Smoking on the Throat
The delightfully scratchy voices of several classic jazz and blues singers can be directly attributed to their penchant for cigars. And what sounds great on an old recording, backed by a great sax, won’t sound quite so good coming out of your own throat. And even folks who don’t mind having their voice go scratchy will probably object to losing their voice all together. Cancer of the throat frequently results in loss of the voice box. The wonders of modern technology have allowed for mechanical replacements, so at least smokers are no longer mute for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately, those mechanical replacements tend to sound like a kids toy robot with laryngitis.
Obviously, there is a lot more to all of these effects of smoking, and others besides, than can easily be included here. Take the time to educate yourself beyond the media blurbs. You’ll be glad you did.