Are there any smokers in the room? Raise your hands and try not to cough (kidding!)

I want to talk directly to you today because I’ve got some information you need to know.

I’m not here to point fingers and make you feel bad or embarrassed for being a smoker. No one likes being addicted to something, and it can happen pretty easily.

What I want to do is tell you what is going on in your body every time you light up a cigarette. You have the right to know what your favorite smokes could be doing to you beyond leaving a bad smell on your clothes, hair and breath.

The short-term impact

Over the short term, smoking causes staining on your teeth and can lead to tooth problems, gum loss and a bad taste in your mouth. The Center for Substance Abuse Research also says that smoking, in the short term, can cause asthma and other respiratory problems, decrease your lung capacity and leave you with a cough that just won’t go away (http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/tobacco.asp).

The long-term game

As time goes on and you continue to light up, the damage toll on your body continues to get worse. You may not even realize it; the more severe health consequences of smoking often don’t start to produce symptoms until some damage has been done, and you may not be able to turn back the clock on that damage, either – even if you quit.

When you smoke, it damages your heart and interferes with how your blood vessels work. The vessels in your heart, for example, can thicken, which means pathways narrow and you’re now at a much higher risk of heart disease than a non-smoker, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/smoking-and-your-heart). It also makes your heart beat at a faster pace, boosts your blood pressure and causes your blood to clot, which can impact blood flow to your heart.

You’ve probably already experienced how smoking can mess with your respiratory system, whether it’s that weird cold that keeps coming back or that time you got winded trying to go up the stairs. Your lungs have a protective layer that guards them from the things you inhale, and that layer has small hairs known as “cilia” whose job is to wipe off your lungs, like car window blades clear a windshield. However, when you smoke, your cilia stop working like they should, leaving your lungs unable to clear themselves out correctly. Smoking can also trigger asthma or make it worse and cause respiratory diseases such as COPD and chronic bronchitis.

Regardless of gender, smoking can harm your reproductive system. Other organs may be affected because of the over 7,000 potentially cancer-causing chemicals cigarettes have been known to contain.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it is possible and it is worth it. Don’t be chained to your smokes a second later than you have to – take back control over your health today!

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