The Harmful Health Effects Of Cigarette Smoking


It's no secret that cigarette smoking is a significant yet avoidable health risk in the United States. The statistics of resulting deaths are staggering; approximately 480,000 preventable deaths occur annually in the US, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control.

The culprit behind the addictive power of cigarettes is a parasympathomimetic substance called nicotine derived from tobacco plants, also known as Nicotiana tabacum. What also makes cigarette smoking so dangerous is the fact that purchasing it isn't prohibited by law, yet its addictive potential can be compared to that of hard drugs such as heroin or meth.

Why Is Nicotine So Damaging?

The influence of brain chemistry on our daily functioning is quite powerful, and changing our natural chemical functions with nicotine isn't dependent on sensually pleasing substances (like vaping, for example.) Under the grip of nicotine dependence, you can expect to experience the following:

  • Psychoactive reactions
  • Difficult to resist relapse
  • Increased nicotine tolerance
  • Physical withdrawal
  • Habitual dependence
  • Substance-motivated decisions

Nicotine is also a double-edged sword with multiple effects; based on how much you smoke, you will either experience stimulant or sedative effects, with rapid onset of absorption through cigarettes. On the other hand, it only requires 20 seconds maximum for nicotine to travel to the brain while smoking.

Upon reaching the brain, nicotine will send your body into a heightened state of arousal by overflooding it with adrenaline by reacting with the adrenal glands. As a result, you may notice more frantic breathing and elevated heartbeat due to the effect of adrenaline, the 'fight or flight' response. In addition, with prolonged cigarette smoking, the risk of contracting multiple vascular diseases also increases due to the strain of high blood pressure.

Your body becomes bombarded with released sugar in response to adrenaline surges. As a result, a healthy appetite also takes a nosedive; elevated blood sugar diminishes the desire to eat after smoking, regardless of the duration of meal intake.

If you or someone you know notices an elevated mood after smoking cigarettes, this is due to the pleasure hormone dopamine, surging from the brain. This dopamine response from smoking is similar to what you would experience from healthier habits such as exercising or listening to music. Unfortunately, this surge of dopamine can manifest in a self-perpetuating cycle; with the high of nicotine-induced dopamine, the surge comes crashing lows of stabilized levels (which is low dopamine levels for smokers). As a result, a smoker craves the next hit more and more to maintain their body's altered equilibrium.

How Smoking Weaks Havoc On All Bodily Systems

Each essential body system succumbs to the adverse effects of smoking and nicotine - the onset of such impacts varies. Some are noticeable with gradual, prolonged use, while others take effect immediately after each cigarette.

Central Nervous System

  • Disorientation (dizzy or lightheaded)
  • Altered sleep schedule
  • Poor blood flow
  • Head pressure/pain

Cardiovascular System

  • Blood clot risk increases (stroke and congestive heart failure)
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Narrowed arteries
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Atherosclerosis

Respiratory System

  • Increased cancer risk
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trachea and larynx irritation/inflammation
  • Irreversible lung and air sac damage

Immune System:

  • Heightened risk of infections (such as bronchitis)
  • Worsened severity and duration of health ailments

Insufficient levels of Vitamin C and other immune-boosting antioxidants