How Cigarettes Destroy Your Body

About 3 million teens smoke; each day 3,000 more begin smoking. One study showed that although most teens know the hazards of smoking, few are worried about them.Bad BreathEach year, pack-a-day smokers smear the equivalent of one cup of tar over their respiratory tracts. Tobacco tar comes back up as bad breath every time smokers exhale.Sexual ProblemsFemale smokers have an unusually high rate of infertility. Male smokers suffer decreased sperm count and have a more difficult time maintaining erections.Premature AgingIt takes as little as five years of smoking to have it hit you in the face. Smoking narrows the blood vessels (vasoconstriction), notably the capillaries of the face, decreasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to facial skin cells. The result is premature facial wrinkling, with deep crow's-feet radiating from the corners of the eyes, and pale, gray, wrinkled skin on the cheeks.Weakness/Shortness of BreathA key component in cigarette smoke is carbon monoxide (CO), the colorless, odorless, poisonous gas in car exhaust. CO binds to the same receptors on red blood cells as oxygen, kicking oxygen out of the bloodstream. It takes only a few packs of cigarettes for smokers' blood to contain up to 15 times as much CO as nonsmokers' blood. Less oxygen reaches the brain and muscles, slowing athletes' reaction times and impairing their energy, strength, and coordination. Meanwhile, the nicotine in smoke boosts the heart rate, increasing the body's need for oxygen. That's why smokers become short of breath so easily. Their bodies need more oxygen, but their blood carries less.Mouth & ThroatEvery puff exposes smokers to gases that irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and gums. Continued smoking spurs a thickening of the throat lining, eventually leading to throat cancer. Smokers are also at increased risk of gum disease and tooth loss.LungsAs in the throat, the body thickens the bronchial lining, trying to protect it from smoke. The process eventually causes lung cancer. Smoking progressively impairs the lungs' ability to oxygenate the blood, leading to emphysema.HeartSmoking increases the heart rate by 10 to 25 beats per minute, or up to 36,000 beats a day. Smokers have a greater risk of irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), which increases the risk of heart attack. Smoking also constricts blood vessels, triggering blood pressure increases of 10 to 15 percent -- a key risk factor for both heart attack and stroke. Because the smoker's heart cannot fully circulate blood, smoking also contributes to congestive heart failure.Arms & LegsSmoking-related narrowing of the blood vessels causes peripheral vascular disease, a condition almost exclusively confined to smokers, who may suffer amputation as a result.But finally, it does just kill people...Every cigarette costs smokers 5 to 20 minutes of life. Tobacco is the underlying cause of over 420,000 deaths a year, 1 in 5 of all deaths in the U.S., including about 90 percent of the lung cancer deaths -- 130,000. Every day, more than 1,000 Americans die from smoking-related diseases, the equivalent of three jumbo jet crashes with no survivors. Smoking kills 17 times more people each year than are victims of homicide and 50 times more than die from illegal drugs....including nonsmokersThe Environmental Protection Agency considers environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), or "secondhand smoke," a "serious and substantial" public health threat.*ETS contains all the toxins inhaled by smokers, leading to lower but significant health problems for nonsmokers. *ETS plays a role in up to 40,000 nonsmokers' deaths from heart disease annually, about 3,000 nonsmokers' deaths from lung cancer, and an estimated 12,000 nonsmokers' deaths from other cancers. *ETS aggravates nonsmokers' respiratory conditions, particularly asthma. Children exposed to ETS have high rates of colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia. *Pregnant smokers have higher rates of miscarriage and premature babies. Babies born to smokers have higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome. *More than one-third of people who die in smoking-related house fires are not the smoker whose cigarette caused the blaze. *Finally, smoking costs the U.S. about $50 billion a year in medical costs.

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