It is widely accepted that cigarette smoking can cause lung cancer. Most people, however, accept that as a risk of long term nicotine use. The fact of the matter is the very first cigarette you smoke begins damaging your lungs. With just one cigarette:
- The cilia that line your airways slow down
- Over 80% of the inhaled chemicals remain in your lungs
- The tar from the cigarette cools, forming a sticky substance that begins coating your lungs
- The cells in your lungs that regulate mucous production increased in size and amount
- The airways in your lungs constrict, making breathing more difficult
This is in addition to the fact that nicotine causes your heart rate to increase and your blood vessels to narrow, making the heart work more. All this, after smoking just one cigarette.
After any sort of long-term smoking, the effects are more severe. Mucous build up in the smoker’s lungs, making it more difficult for them to breathe and leading to the ever-present smoker’s cough as they try to clear the mucous from their lungs. Cilia can become completely paralyzed, allowing bacteria and dirt to more effectively invade their ever burgeoning mucous production system, leading to illness. Smoking also damages the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs), allowing for less full breaths. This damage can lead to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
In fact, while lung cancer receives most of the attention, smoking can cause a host of other problems, including:
- Bacterial infections (including bronchitis and pneumonia)
- Blood clots
- Coronary disease (and heart attacks)
- Stomach ulcers
As well as other types of cancer (including, but not limited to, throat, mouth, and stomach cancers). Many of these conditions are, at best, debilitating, and more than one can lead to death.
Some smokers look at information like this and ask themselves why bother quitting if the damage is already done. The reality is most of the damage is reversible. Once someone quits smoking:
- They find breathing easier within just three days
- Within a month, smoker’s cough will lessen as mucus begins clearing
- In one to nine months, their cilia will begin to regrow
- At that same time, they will stop getting viruses and infections as often
- Any pre-cancerous tissue has the possibility of returning to normal (lowering your risk of lung, and other cigarette causing, cancers over time)
All of these factors, plus the lowered risk of heart disease, the improved sense of taste and smell, and the increase in energy should be enough to encourage any smoker to try quitting. Don’t you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to make the effort to become cigarette free?