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Home / Stop Smoking / What are the effects of smoking?

What are the effects of smoking?

Learn about how smoking affects your body

There are many health effects of smoking tobacco products. Cigarette smoke damages nearly every organ of the body and causes many diseases and health problems in both men and women.

Smoking is one of the largest causes of death and illness. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 8 million Trusted source World Health Organization (WHO) Government Source International Public Health Information Go to source people die each year because of tobacco use. This includes an estimated 1.3 million non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke.

The effect of smoking on the lungs is widely known, however smoking harms us in many other ways. This article covers both the short-term and long-term effects of smoking on our bodies and our health.

What are some short-term effects of smoking?


One of the effects of smoking is that it stains your teeth because of the nicotine and tar present in tobacco. It can make your teeth yellow and discolour your tongue in a very short period of time.

People who smoke have a greater risk of gum disease. This is because smoking supports the build-up of bacteria, plaque, and tartar leading to cavities, tooth decay, and tooth loss.

Smokers are also more likely to have complications after dental treatments and oral surgeries and may experience poor healing after these procedures.

Graphic showing how smoking affects your mouth

Smoking can affect your taste buds, decrease taste, leave you with a bad taste in your mouth and bad breath.

Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth including the tongue, cheek, and lips. Smoking and chewing tobacco are the most common causes of oral cancer.


A lot of research shows the effects of smoking on the skin. Studies Trusted source Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD) Peer-reviewed Journals Go to source have shown that smokers have enhanced facial ageing and skin wrinkling compared with nonsmokers. This is because smoking causes the breakdown of collagen and elastic fibres. Collagen is an essential protein in the skin that provides strength and elasticity. It gives the skin a smooth, plump and youthful appearance.

Research Trusted source National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Government Source Biomedical Research and Literature Go to source also shows that smoking is associated with slower wound healing, (including skin injuries and surgical wounds) and an increased risk of infections. This is because of reduced blood flow and oxygen to the wound.


Smoking can have both short-term and long-term effects on your heart. Within minutes after you inhale tobacco smoke, nicotine begins to affect your body.

Nicotine constricts blood vessels immediately after smoking. This constriction can reduce blood flow to certain parts of the body, which causes an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to serious health problems over time. Restricted blood flow is also the main cause of erectile dysfunction.


Nicotine is a stimulant which means it can affect the quality of sleep, especially if you smoke too close to bedtime. Studies Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source have shown that smokers have trouble getting to sleep and are likely to have disturbed sleep.

What are some long-term effects of smoking?


Tobacco smoke is made up of thousands of chemicals. These include toxic metals, poisonous gases and chemicals known to cause cancer.

Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body. Poisons in cigarette smoke can also weaken the body’s immune system, making it harder to fight cancer cells.

Smoking also has long-term effects on your skin. Studies Trusted source PubMed Government Source Database of Biomedical Research Go to source have shown that current smoking is associated with a higher risk of squamous cell carcinoma.

Other types of cancers caused by smoking include:

Graphic of the cancers caused by smoking


Smoking is one cause of type 2 diabetes and the more cigarettes you smoke, the more your risk increases. According to the CDC, people who smoke cigarettes are 30%-40% Trusted source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Government Source Go to source more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who don’t smoke.

Smoking also makes diabetes harder to manage. Quitting makes your blood sugar levels easier to manage.

Heart disease

Smokers have a higher risk of experiencing diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. The chemicals in cigarettes damage the blood vessels and make the walls of your arteries ‘sticky’. Fatty material can clog your arteries and cause them to narrow. This reduces the space for blood to flow properly. If the arteries that carry blood to your heart or brain get clogged, it can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

Smoking can also:

  • increase your risk of blood clots
  • reduce the amount of oxygen delivered around your body
  • restrict blood flow to certain parts of your body
Graphic showing the negative effects of smoking on your heart


Smoking can cause lung disease by damaging your airways and the small air sacs in your lungs. Smokers are more likely to develop lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

A cigarette and tobacco forming the shape of lungs

Cigarette smoke can irritate your air passages. If you have asthma, smoke can trigger or worsen an asthma attack. It can also cause swelling and narrowing of the airways and excess mucus in the lung passages. This can make you feel breathless when completing ordinary tasks, for example, climbing stairs or doing light housework.

Research Trusted source National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Government Source Biomedical Research and Literature Go to source also shows that smoking increases your risk of developing lung infections such as pneumonia.


Smoking causes changes in your eyesight and vision, you may develop serious eye conditions that can cause vision loss or blindness. If you smoke, you are more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration and cataracts compared to people who do not smoke.

What are the effects of smoking on pregnancy and fertility?

Smoking during pregnancy can cause complications with both the pregnancy and your baby. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen your baby gets and the harmful chemicals present in cigarettes can pass through the placenta. If you smoke while you’re pregnant, there is an increased risk of:

  • miscarriage
  • ectopic pregnancy
  • having a stillbirth
  • premature birth
  • your baby being born with a low birth weight

If your household members smoke, their second-hand smoke can affect you and your baby. Secondhand smoke can also reduce your baby's birth weight and increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Your baby may also be more likely to be admitted to hospital for lung infections such as pneumonia, within their first year of life.

Smoking can also negatively affect fertility and make it harder to conceive for both men and women. It may also negatively impact hormone production, harm the reproductive system and damage sperm.

Pregnant woman smoking a cigarette

What are the social effects of smoking?

Smoking puts those closest to you at risk of developing illnesses including cancer, heart disease, and a range of infections. When you smoke, you may be setting a negative example for your children or those who look up to you. Your non-smoking friends or family members may try to distance themselves from you, which may leave you feeling isolated or alone.

Effects of passive smoking

Passive smoking occurs when others breathe in the smoke you breathe out by smoking tobacco products. Most people inhale secondhand smoke in their homes and even briefly being exposed to this can cause serious health problems.

Secondhand smoke can cause heart disease and lung cancer in those who do not smoke.

When you quit, you’re playing your part to create a smoke-free environment for your friends and family. This will have a positive impact on the health of your loved ones.

Can the effects of smoking be reversed?

Some of the damage done by smoking can be reversed. Within minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your body begins to recover.

Here is what happens when you stop smoking:

Graphic showing a timeline of what happens when you stop smoking

Some other immediate benefits of quitting are that:

  • Food tastes better
  • Your sense of smell returns to normal
  • Your breath, hair, and clothes smell better
  • Your teeth and fingernails stop yellowing

Thinking about quitting?

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 31-01-2024
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