Most of you know that smoking is harmful, but that's not the point.
This is not about WHY someone should stop smoking, because "knowledge" has nothing to do with quitting if a smoker does not want to personally benefit from it.
However, as you are here, smoking's effects and diseases are shown here in black and white straight from medical and research evidence, and hospital files.
Firstly, for actual number crunching smoking statistics, see Smoking Facts
And for the advantages of quitting, see Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Sorry, getting serious now... what are all the health effects of smoking?
And to really see how horrible it can be in real life, here's a story for you... introducing . . .
Mama L and Big H are the Baccy Gang's chief honchos—they make the gang's rules.
Rule No.1—smoking is compulsory.
Rule No.2—any problems refer to Rule No.1... more or less, if you get what I mean. In other words, you're not welcome if you don't join in with a smoke and usually a drink.
Mama L daily puffs on her cigarettes, but the effects of smoking on her lungs means that the smoke is anaesthetizing the tiny hair-like cilia in her bronchial system and her lung capacity is getting restricted.
Because her airways are being clogged up she feels congested and her nose is often stuffed up. She coughs and hoiks more and more—it wakes her up in the night now. Sometimes the coughing goes on and on like a choking fit.
Mama L is prone to colds and flu too, because most of her natural bacteria and bug protection has been barbequed!
Big H feels sorry for Mama L, but he can't always go over and give her a tissue and a hug because his heart and circulatory system is so dicky that it's such a doggone effort to move.
He's also rapidly losing his vision. The doctors told him it's called AMD or age-related macular degeneration and Big H has triple the risk of developing this progressively degenerative eye disease due to the effects of smoking.
If a heart attack or stroke doesn't get Big H soon, blindness will descend permanently.
Tommy 2 pops in for a visit (he lives at no.2 next door). He's a smokin' away like he has for the last 30 odd years, and he reckons there's no way he's gonna let some doc mess with him. He doesn't believe in all these bad effects of smoking.
Apart from some aches and pains here and there, and lack of energy, Tommy 2 feels life is going along as best as can be expected what with the state of the gov'ment, the price of baccy and all that.
Before his next birthday, with no major warning, Tommy 2's carbon monoxide blood levels of over 30 will tip past the danger level and block his blood flow. The extreme pain of his heart stopping will send him unconscious, but with quick ambulance response, and frantic action from doctors, he will live.
The next few months more doctors will struggle to save his limbs from amputation, and stabilize his carbon monoxide levels down to around 10, and finally help Tommy 2 come to terms with the loss of a few fingers and toes and a warning of sure instant death if he smokes again.
Ms Cool is Tommy 2's young and glamorous (but fading fast), girlfriend. Dang it all, she's got this really nasty sore on her mouth. It hinders her smoking; in fact it makes it hard to lick the paper after she's rolled up her baccy.
She likes rolling her own ciggies, because she gets a stronger drag without the filter. Unfortunately this allows more tar and chemicals into her mouth as well as closer heat.
Ms Cool doesn't know it yet but her mouth sore is cancer, one of the incurable kinds, such as mouth, larynx and lung cancer. An operation will control it for a while, but it will spread into her bones and brain. But before that it will grow down into her larynx, so they'll remove that first.
She will have a tube called a stoma into her throat for breathing, eating and—because they removed her voice box—grunting... and Ms Cool will constantly drool... so uncool.
Old Ed has emphysema. I mean he's not that old, unless you're a teen—he's about 60ish.
He used to love to drop by for a bit of a yarn and smoko with the gang, but he's in a hospice now, filled with tubes going in one nostril, over to a hook-up gadget, attached to an oxygen tank, and back into his other nostril, or something like that. He gasps that it's a bit like living with a plastic bag over your face—and he doesn't laugh when he says this—he can't.
He's so miserably uncomfortable and cut-off from the world, that he hates all this struggle and just wants to die quickly.
Mama L's parents both died of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) in their early 60s and within a few years of each other. Initially it was chronic bronchitis that inexorably sapped the breath and strength from them.
They even had to give up their beloved Bowls Club outings and Orchid Club meetings—it was embarrassing and quite disgusting sometimes for others to see them suffer. It was like they were drowning in their own phlegm and tar.
When they were only 55 or so, then the signs of emphysema developed and that really was the beginning of the end. The small air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs were collapsing at a fast rate, and eventually there would be no place for oxygen to exchange, so they were slowly smothering themselves to death.
Enormous sums of money were spent on them, like millions of other smokers; providing care, drugs, home nursing, cleaning, shopping and cooking help, emergency hospital visits and monitoring equipment over the next 8-10 years before they were fully bed-ridden and died 4-6 months later. Like Old Ed, they lost contact with most of their friends, and only Mama L could visit sometimes.
Mama L somehow thought she could beat the odds of her going the same way, and heck it was just too hard to do anything about it anyway—maybe next year she'd secretly try again to quit. After all she didn't have really serious symptoms, and if she did, then she would surely quit and all would be ok, wouldn't it?
One night at 2 am Mama L woke up with a terrible pain in her chest, and coughing blood.
In the Emergency ward, they did lots of tests over the next few days and yes, Mama L was right, she wasn't going to die the way her parents had. No siree, she had lung cancer. OH NO sireee, please NO.
She knew there was no cure for lung cancer, because she had found out about it and watched her dear Aunt Flo waste away and die even though they had removed the middle lobe of her right lung in an attempt to add more time.
Mama L's orchids died first—the one's inherited from her parents. Big H's dicky heart stopped him from looking after them properly and all the rest of the gang were so upset over Mama L's diagnosis that all they could do was sit around and smoke and worry.
Big H lasted another 8 years, with the pain and restrictions of angina, and all the pills that go with it as his constant companions. It's no secret that smoking more than doubles the risk of heart disease, with the most common cause being coronary artery disease—the clogging of arteries supplying the heart with blood. One Monday morning Big H didn't wake up; his heart had stopped beating causing sudden cardiac death.
Meanwhile Cuzzie from the country came for a visit. He had to wrap himself in a blanket whilst he was sitting having a smoke and catching up with the baccy gang. His circulation was damaged by the effects of smoking, so he had a low tolerance of cold.
Smoking affects the supply of oxygen to the heart and it doesn't pump blood so well, thus Cuzzie's hands and feet didn't get nice warm blood to nourish them properly.
Cuzzie had never heard of Buerger's disease, but that's what they called it when they finally amputated one leg to stop the gangrene, which was spreading upward due to the poor circulation.
Cuzzie screamed and writhed in pain and terror many times over the next months, even though they gave him heaps of pain killers.
Being a smoker, he didn't get much sympathy from the hospital staff, but his wife who had sell up their small country shack, give up her shop job and move into the city with the kids, reckoned it wasn't fair and "somebody should do something about it."
The T'baccy Gang's most handsome member was Dave D. At 38, his square jaw, penetrating blue eyes and broody countenance gave him appeal.
Problem was that broody countenance was now due to depression. Apparently he was once a star player at his local footy club, but the effects of smoking on his stamina meant that he just couldn't keep up anymore. This affected him psychologically and he retreated into a miserable world of self-doubt, anger and apathy.
Even Dave D's old footy pal, wasn't around to cheer him up. He's recovering from burns. He fell asleep on the couch watching footy and his cigarette dropped to the floor and lit up the room like fireworks. By the time he woke and neighbors rushed to help, he was a real mess.
Smoking affects reaction times due to reduced supply of oxygen to the brain, and what with his drinking habit, all-in-all it combined to muddy his brain and make him do silly things and become a bit slow off the mark. Funny that the neighbors described his lounge like New Year's Eve... that was when he made his last quit resolution. "In one year and out the next year," he'd quipped.
Back to sultry looking Dave D. Sure he was born with good looks and physique, and until recently he had hoped to settle down with his girlfriend. But she got fed up with his lack of sexual virility, another one of the insidious but common side effects of smoking.
Dave D never did have kids. Most of his adult life was ruined by smoking... first by lack of vitality and stamina, next by depression, then reduced virility and finally even when he did quit smoking and started to feel better, the damage had been done, and he and his new partner couldn't conceive a baby because of Dave D's low sperm count.
Cuzzie's wife, Sniffy—well that's not her real name, but some locals back in the country nicknamed her that because she, um, she smelled. The effects of smoking on her olfactory glands meant she had lost her sense of smell. Even her kids were taunted at school for being pongy.
Sniffy was overweight. The effects of smoking had also numbed her taste buds, so she downed large amounts of very salted, flavored, sugared and fatty junk food to try and get some taste sensations. Then because she felt so awful, she ate and smoked more, and felt worse, and so on.
Not only had her sense of taste and smell almost gone, her dull skin sagged, her eyes clouded, and she hated looking in the mirror—especially at the repulsive fuzzy brown and yellow stuff permanently on her tongue, another one of smoking's effects.
Sniffy started hoeing into the breath fresheners and mints, which made her fatter and further eroded her gums.
When her first tooth fell out and the dentist said there were more wobbly ones, that's when she found out about another one of the effects of smoking—periodontitis, or gum disease. Nasty inflamed, bleeding gums, receding from teeth, causing decay, pain, tooth loss and more seriously the infection spreading to other organs, such as the heart.
Remember Ms Cool? She had a teenage little sister—Little Sis who was keen to emulate her suave older sister so she took up smoking a couple of years ago, at age 15.
She struggled to look glamorous, but like many adolescents, the effects of smoking on her body annoyingly made her susceptible to respiratory infections. She got asthma, bronchitis, and lots of coughing spells with phlegm and even blood, and she was constantly short of breath and often wheezed.
Pity Little Sis didn't realize that her rate of lung growth was being impaired, which even now reduced her lung function, and stamina.
She was also unaware there's now clear evidence that adolescent smokers have impairments in accuracy of working memory performance, ie, their speed and accuracy to grasp information and retain it gets a severe blow.
Little Sis and her friends would likely suffer the effects of smoking far worse in about 20-30 or so years time. Many premature aging signs would probably creep up first and generally the killer diseases follow on if smoking continued.
Little Sis and her friends at the moment have firm young skin. Their skin is fed, like all organs, from the bloodstream. Nutrients from food, plus oxygen from breathing are absorbed into their skin and other body cells automatically millions of times per day.
But uh oh, here come a puff on a cigarette from one of the friends, called Pixie. The haemoglobin in Pixie's blood absorbs the carbon monoxide in the inhaled smoke. This toxic gas stops much of the oxygen getting in, so her skin gets less oxygen and gets a dose of carbon monoxide instead—plus more than 60 other poisonous chemicals released by the effect of smoking.
Premature aging is helped along also by the shortage of Vitamin C which smoking destroys. Vitamin C helps preserves collagen, so now the collagen in Pixie's skin is slowly starting to break down, and her skin will lose its nice plump youthfulness early due to these effects of smoking.
No matter how much collagen cream she may slather on in a few year's time, those early wrinkles around her eyes and mouth, plus the general appearance of her skin will show the tell-tale damage of smoking's effects.
But Pixie will die of cervical cancer at 42, leaving behind a husband and 3 young children.
Cancer of the cervix is not necessarily a disease primarily caused by smoking, but Pixie will greatly increase her risk by smoking. In fact Pixie's risk of all diseases, including cancer, skyrockets with the effects of smoking, even some that until recently were thought of as not being affected by smoking, such as cancer of the kidneys, pancreas and stomach.
In the Oncology ward with Pixie were many sufferers of cancer caused by the effects of smoking.
In the next bed was Dainty. Dainty has just learned that the greatest risk factor for bladder cancer is smoking—which is why she's got it.
Those nasty carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) in tobacco smoke were absorbed from her lungs into her blood. From the blood, they were filtered by the kidneys and concentrated in her urine. The bladder is where the urine collects and waits in its final stage before leaving the body, and it is where these chemicals in Dainty's urine damaged the urothelial cells that lined the inside of her bladder, and ultimately turned them cancerous.
Pixie's best friend, Bebop, will succumb to breast cancer helped along by the effects of smoking, but her strong genetic makeup and reasonably healthy life, means that she will hit the 70 year old mark before the DNA in her cells are so damaged by exposure to the carcinogenic toxins in the inhaled smoke, that her cells will multiply rapidly into a tumor in her left breast, then metastase into her spinal column and in the last 3 long days, agonisingly envelope her brain before cutting off life.
"Thank goodness I quit smoking before my health went downhill."