Updated 27 January 2014

Smoking and your body: a total onslaught

We all know that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and heart attack. But impotence, tooth loss, abnormal fat deposits and blindness? Smoking is a full-body onslaught.


We all know that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and heart attacks. But impotence? Tooth loss? Abnormal fat deposits? Blindness? With each new medical study, it becomes more apparent that smoking is a total onslaught, harming any tissue in the body that needs a reliable supply of oxygen – in other words, every tissue in the body.

Tobacco use has been implicated in over 50 medical conditions that can seriously compromise your quality of life, and even kill you. Some of these are listed here.

Smoking can harm your:


  • Smoking doubles your risk for stroke.
  • Smoking has been implicated in degeneration of mental function.

Smoking typically results in premature skin ageing.
Smokers have a two to three times greater risk of developing the chronic skin condition psoriasis.

Smoking increases your risk of blindness due to age-related macular degeneration by up to four times.


  • A smoker’s risk of developing oral (mouth) cancer is four times that of a non-smoker. Smoking increases the risk for gum disease, which is associated with tooth loss and halitosis
  • Smokers usually have a poor sense of taste

Children exposed to passive smoke tend to have more middle ear infections.


  • Smoking has been linked to cancer of the nasal cavities and sinuses,
  • Smokers usually have a poor sense of smell.

Smoking increases your risk for cancer of the phanryx (throat).

Voice box
Smoking increases your risk for cancer of the larynx (voice box).

Smoking increases your risk for cancer of the oesophagus (gullet).


  • One in 10 moderate smokers and almost one in five heavy smokers will die of lung cancer.
  • Smoking is a major risk factor for COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which includes such conditions as emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  • Smoking worsens asthma symptoms and renders asthma medication less effective.

Smoking increases your risk for heart disease and heart attack by two to three times.

Smoking increases your risk for cancer of the kidney.

Smoking increases your risk for cancer of the pancreas.

Smoking increases your risk for liver cancer.

Smoking increases your risk for stomach cancer and peptic ulcer.

Smoking increases your risk for bladder cancer.

Colon and rectum
Smoking increases your risk for colorectal cancer.

Reproductive organs

  • Smoking may be the cause of infertility in 17% of couples who are childless for medical reasons.
  • Smoking increases the risk of impotence, or erectile dysfunction, by about 50% for men in their 30s and 40s.
  • Smoking increases the risk of cervical cancer.
  • Smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day increases the risk of early menopause to twice that of non-smokers.

Pregnancy and childbirth

  • Smoking increases the risk for problems during pregnancy and birth, including miscarriage, and babies who are born premature, underweight or stillborn.
  • Passive smoking is believed to be a causative factor in SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)

Smoking is the most important risk factor for peripheral vascular disease (narrowing of arteries to the limbs), and increases the risk of gangrene and subsequent limb amputation by over five times.

Bones and muscles

  • Smoking weakens bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
  • Osteoporosis tends to occur earlier in smokers.
  • Smoking is associated with slow healing of fractures and slow wound healing.
  • Smokers have a higher injury rate.

Smoking is a risk factor for certain kinds of leukaemia.

Immune system

  • Risk of infections, like colds and flu, is higher in smokers.
  • Children exposed to passive smoking are at increased risk for bronchitis, pneumonia, throat infections and middle ear infections.

Endocrine (hormone) system
The effect of smoking on the endocrine system (glands which secrete hormones) can result in the abnormal distribution of body fat.

Read more:

Cigarettes more dangerous than ever

How passive smoking hurts

Kids seduced by e-cigarettes

(Photo of woman smoking cigarette from Shutterstock)


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