There are no physical reasons to start smoking – the body doesn’t need tobacco the way it needs food, water, sleep and exercise. In fact, many of the chemicals in cigarettes, like nicotine and cyanide, are actually poisons that can kill in high doses. Your body is smart and it goes on the defence when it’s being poisoned. This is why first-time smokers often feel pain or burning in their throat and lungs, and some people feel sick or even throw up the first few times they smoke. Many people find it takes several tries to get started smoking.
The effects of this poisoning are gradual. Over the long term, smoking leads you to develop health problems like cancer, emphysema (breakdown of lung tissue), organ damage and heart disease. These diseases limit your ability to be active and can be fatal. Each time you light up, that single cigarette can take five minutes or more off your life.
Smokers not only develop wrinkles and yellow teeth, they also lose bone density, which increases their risk of osteoporosis (a condition that causes older people to become bent over and their bones to break more easily). Smokers also tend to be less active than non-smokers because smoking affects lung power. Smoking can also cause fertility problems in both men and women and can affect your sexual health.
The consequences of smoking may seem very far off to you now but long-term health problems aren’t the only hazard of smoking. Nicotine and the other toxins in cigarettes can affect your body quickly, which means that young smokers often have these problems:
- Bad skin. Because smoking restricts blood vessels, it can stop oxygen and nutrients from getting to the skin – which is why smokers often appear pale and unhealthy.
- Bad breath. All those cigarettes can leave you with a condition called halitosis, or persistent bad breath.
- Bad-smelling clothes and hair. The smell of stale smoke tends to linger – not just on your clothing, but on your hair, furniture, and in your car. And it’s hard to get rid of the smell of smoke.
- Reduced athletic performance. People who smoke usually can’t compete with non-smokers because the physical effects of smoking – like rapid heartbeat, decreased circulation and shortness of breath – can slow you down on the pitch.
- Greater risk of injury and slower healing time. Smoking affects your body’s ability to produce collagen, so common sports injuries such as damage to tendons and ligaments will heal more slowly in smokers than non-smokers.
- Increased risk of illness. Smokers get more colds, flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia than non-smokers. And people with certain health conditions, like asthma, become sicker if they smoke (and often if they’re just around people who smoke). If you smoke to keep your weight down and often light up instead of eating, your body will lack the nutrients you need to grow, develop, and fight off illness properly.