When you smoke, the poisons from the tar in your cigarettes enter your blood. Making your blood thicker, and increase chances of clot formation, Increasing your blood pressure and heart rate.
Narrowing your arteries, reducing the amount of oxygen rich blood circulating to your organs.
Together, these changes can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Smoking damages your heart and your blood circulation, increasing the risk of conditions such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease (damaged blood vessels) and cerebrovascular disease (damaged arteries that supply blood to your brain).
Smokers have an increased chance of getting stomach cancer or ulcers. Smoking can weaken the muscle in the stomach and cause acid reflux.
Smoking is a significant risk factor for developing kidney cancer, and the more you smoke the greater the risk.
Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to your skin. This means that if you smoke, your skin ages more quickly and looks grey and dull.
The good news is that once you stop smoking, you will prevent further deterioration to your skin caused by smoking.
Smoking can cause your bones to become weak and brittle. Women need to be especially careful as they are more likely to suffer from brittle bones (osteoporosis) than non-smokers.
If you smoke, you are more likely to have a stroke than someone who doesn’t smoke.
In fact, smoking increases your risk of having a stroke by at least 50%, which can cause brain damage and death. And, by smoking, you double your risk of dying from a stroke.
The good news is that within two years of stopping smoking, your risk of stroke is reduced to half that of a non-smoker and within five years it will be the same as a non-smoker.
Your lungs can be very badly affected by smoking. Coughs, colds, wheezing and asthma are just the start. Smoking can cause fatal diseases such as pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer. Smoking causes 84% of deaths from lung cancer and 83% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Mouth and throat
Smoking causes unattractive problems such as bad breath and stained teeth, and can also cause gum disease and damage your sense of taste.
The most serious damage smoking causes in your mouth and throat is an increased risk of cancer in your lips, tongue, throat, voice box and gullet (oesophagus). More than 93% of oropharyngeal cancers (cancer in part of the throat) are caused by smoking.
Reproduction and fertility
Smoking can cause male impotence, as it damages the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. It can also damage sperm, reduce sperm count and cause testicular cancer. Up to 120,000 men from the UK in their 20s and 30s are impotent as a direct result of smoking, and men who smoke have a lower sperm count than those who are non-smokers.
For women, smoking can reduce fertility. One study found that smokers were over three times more likely than non-smokers to have taken more than one year to conceive. The study estimated that the fertility of smoking women was 72% that of non-smokers.
Smoking also increases your risk of cervical cancer. People who smoke are less able to get rid of the HPV infection from the body, which can develop into cancer.
Smoking while you are pregnant can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and illness, and it increases the risk of cot death by at least 25%.
The good news is that once you stop smoking, your health improves and your body will begin to recover.
If you want to stop smoking, several different treatments are available.
The best treatment for you will depend on your personal preference, your age, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and any medical conditions you have. Speak to your GP or an NHS stop smoking adviser for advice.
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
NRT provides you with a low level of nicotine, without the tar, carbon monoxide and other poisonous chemicals present in tobacco smoke. It can help reduce unpleasant withdrawal effects, such as bad moods and cravings, which may occur when you stop smoking.
It’s available as: skin patches, chewing gum, inhalators, tablets, oral strips and lozenges,nasal and mouth spray
Treatment with NRT usually lasts 8-12 weeks, before you gradually reduce the dose and eventually stop.
Varenicline (brand name Champix) works in two ways, reducing cravings and also blocks the rewarding and reinforcing effects of smoking.
Evidence suggests it’s the most effective medication for helping people stop smoking.
A course of treatment usually lasts around 12 weeks, but it can be continued for longer if necessary.
Bupropion (brand name Zyban) is a medication originally used to treat depression, but it has since been found to help people quit smoking.
A course of treatment usually lasts around seven to nine weeks.
An e-cigarette is an electronic device that delivers nicotine in a vapour. This allows you to inhale nicotine without most of the harmful effects of smoking, as the vapour contains no tar or carbon monoxide.