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Health Effects of Smoking

Health studies have shown that smoking can affect your heart as well as your lungs. Smoking also raises your risk of certain cancers. These are all good reasons to quit.

Woman breaking cigarette.

How smoking affects your body

Smoking has been linked with many serious illnesses. It also has been shown to increase signs of aging. A few of the health effects of smoking are listed below. Smoking can:

  • Raise your risk of lung cancer, bladder cancer, and cervical cancer

  • Harm your lungs and cause problems with breathing. This includes emphysema and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) .

  • Raise blood pressure. This raises your risk for heart attack or stroke.

  • Reduce blood flow. This can slow healing and cause wrinkles.

  • In pregnant women, cause bleeding problems, miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth defects

  • In men, cause problems with erections

What happens when you smoke?

When you smoke, your breathing becomes shallow. Your lungs fill with smoke. Smoking cigarettes also fills your body with chemicals, such as nicotine and tar. Here’s how these things affect your body:

  • Smoke. Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide. This gas takes the place of oxygen in your blood.

  • Nicotine. This drug raises your blood pressure and heart rate. It reduces blood flow to your arms and legs. And it slows digestion.

  • Tar. Tar is what’s left after tobacco is smoked. This sticky brown material gums up your lungs. This causes less oxygen to get into your bloodstream.

  • Other chemicals. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 other chemicals. They include formaldehyde, arsenic, and lead. Dozens of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.

Get help and more information

  • Go to or call 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669).

  • National Cancer Institute Smoking Quitline. Go to or call 877-44U-QUIT (877-448-7848).

Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Perez, Eric, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2017
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