Contents of Cigarette smoke and their hazards to major body organs


It is essential to know that cigarette smoke causes cancers and promotes infections, male impotency and female infertility. It is responsible for majority of pulmonary and heart problems.  Skin, kidney, psychological, social, behavioural, cognitive and birth dysfunctions are affected. Cigarette smoke aggravates HIV/AIDS problems.

Cigarette smoking, like other forms of tobacco use, poses dangerous but avoidable health risks to major organs of the body. There is no safe level of cigarette use. Risks are greater for those who smoke more cigarettes or smoke few sticks for a long period of time. Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco are as addictive as heroin and cocaine. Nicotine is the chemical in cigarette that causes addiction.

Cigarette smoke is the single greatest cause of preventable deaths globally, according to World Health Organization. Similarly, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes cigarette use as “the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries and an important cause of premature death worldwide”.


The World Health Organization estimates that about 4 million people globally die annually from cigarette smoke-related illnesses. And by 2030 it is estimated that this value will rise to 10 million deaths each year.  70% of these deaths are expected in developing world if the current cigarette smoking trend persists.

The risk of dying from any cause of illness is significantly higher for cigarette smokers. This is particularly among smokers who are less than 65 years old, moderate and deep inhalers.  Smokers are three times more likely to die before the age of 60 or 70 than non-smokers. At home particularly, almost half of the world’s children breathe in air polluted by cigarette smoke. This worsens their asthma conditions and causes other dangerous diseases inside their budding organs.

The information in this document will help you make an informed decision today on what to do with cigarette smoking. May I encourage you to save your tomorrow and generation from smoking-related deformities and deaths.


Cigarette is coarsely ground tobacco leaves wrapped in paper. It has over 4000 poisonous chemicals that negatively affect human health when activated by burning.  Cigarette smoke has 50 known or suspected carcinogens that can cause cancers in human. Some of the chemicals are:

  • Acetone which is a component of nail polish remover.
  • Formaldehyde which is used to embalm dead body.
  • Arsenic which is rat poison.
  • Nicotine which is part of bug spray.
  • Tar which is used for paving roads.
  • Carbon monoxide which is a poisonous gas released in car exhaust fumes.


There is disturbing shift in prevalence of cigarette smoking to adolescents and even children, mainly in the developing countries. This can be attributed to several factors. The cigarette industries deliberately spend huge amount of money annually on advertising. Surprisingly they target adolescents in the developing world. They are very vulnerable audience for the marketing campaigns. Adolescents “who rule their world” find it difficult to understand the long term health hazards inherent in each puff of cigarette smoke. They are more easily influenced by plausible images of romance, success and sophistication. They attracted by popularity and adventure the advertising presentations suggest they could achieve through the consumption of cigarettes. This cigarette marketing strategy targeted at adolescents is against organizations’ and countries’ efforts to improve child health and reduce mortality. It reverses or halts the positive outcome of the work done to improve healthcare in developing countries particularly. Therefore, the youths who are the productive workforce globally, should have urgent change of orientation towards cigarette smoking ads.


Cigarette smoke harms nearly every organ of the body and diminishes people’s overall health and quality of life. Cigarette use most commonly leads to diseases affecting the heart and liver.  Kidney, lungs and areas such as hands and feet are not spared. Overall life expectancy is also reduced in long term smokers. Also, environmental cigarette smoke or secondhand smoke has adverse health implications in people of all ages. There are identified diseases among the population attributable to or aggravated by chemicals from cigarette smoke. They include:


Cigarette usage increases risk of several forms of cancers which have extremely low cure rates, particularly:


The impact of cigarette smoke ­on people living with HIV/AIDS is of growing public health concern. Cigarette smoke:

  • Weakens the body immune system.  Makes it incapable to fight-off opportunistic infections associated with HIV/AIDS.
  • Increases the risk of HIV/AIDS-associated malignancies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer complications.
  • Makes oral, pulmonary and cancer disorders more difficult to treat especially among smokers living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Accelerates the progression of HIV to AIDS through adverse drug interactions with antiretroviral drugs.
  • Enhances the reduction in CD4 cell count irrespective of adherence to antiretroviral drugs by HIV positive smokers.


Long term exposure to compounds in cigarette smoke like carbon monoxide and cyanide are responsible for pulmonary damage and loss of alveoli elasticity. This problem promotes and leads to:

  • Emphysema which is the enlargement and damage of the air sacs of the lungs. Here surface area for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is reduced. There may be breathlessness with no specific therapy.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) which is a permanent, incurable (often terminal) reduction of pulmonary capacity. It is characterized by shortness of breath, chronic inflammation, wheezing, persistent cough with sputum and damage to the lungs.
  • Chronic bronchitis which involves coughing up excessive infected mucus from inflamed bronchial tree that may be damaged permanently.
  • Lower respiratory tract infections.
  • Exacerbation of asthma.
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Invasive pneumococcal disease.
  • Recurring common cold.
  • Promotion of influenza epidemics.


Inhalation of cigarette smoke triggers several immediate harmful responses within the heart and blood vessels. Cigarette smoke-related cardiovascular disorders include:

  • Reduction in the blood’s ability to carry oxygen.
  • Coronary heart disease.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Peripheral vascular disease.
  • Atherosclerosis.
  • Heart attack or stroke (people under 40 years are five times more prone to heart attack if they smoke).
  • Narrowing of blood vessels which could lead to blockage.
  • Changes in the heart’s shape.
  • Acute inflammation and thrombosis (clotting) in arteries and veins of the hands and feet.
  • High blood “bad” cholesterol levels.
  • Permanent loss of blood cell functionality.
  • Eczema, due to reduced blood supply.
  • High blood pressure and weakened blood vessels.


In addition to increasing the risk of kidney cancer, smoking can also contribute to additional renal damage. Smokers are at significantly increased risk of:


Perhaps the most serious oral condition that can arise is that of oral cancer. However, smoking also increases the risk of various other oral diseases, almost exclusive to cigarette users. The oral diseases are:

  • Periodontitis or inflammation around the teeth.
  • Staining of teeth and other dental diseases.
  • Halitosis or bad breath.
  • Tooth loss.
  • Leukoplakia which is adherent white plaques or patches on the mucous membranes of the oral cavity.
  • Loss of taste sensation or salivary



Cigarette smoke causes impotency. This is because it promotes arterial narrowing in approximately 85% of male smokers.

It causes erectile dysfunction (through vascular disease).


Cigarette smoke is harmful to the ovaries. And it can cause female infertility through some of these notable ways.

  • Nicotine and other harmful chemicals in cigarettes interfere with the body’s ability to create estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that regulates folliculogenesis and ovulation.
  • Chemicals in cigarette smoke alter folliculogenesis and embryo transport. Also endometrial receptivity, endometrial angiogenesis, uterine blood flow and the uterine myometrium are affected.

It should be emphasized that some damages in the ovaries are irreversible. But stoppage of cigarette smoking can prevent further damage.


Cigarette smoke causes these psychological problems:

  • Adolescent smokers report of increasing levels of daily mental stress. This is due to nicotine dependence, as they develop regular patterns of smoking.
  • Worsening moods between cigarettes.
  • Development of tension and irritability during nicotine depletion.
  • Feeling of deprivation which makes smokers less vigilant and less alert.


Medical researchers discovered that cigarette smoking is a predictor of divorce.

Smokers have more than 60% chance of divorce on the global scale.


Cigarette usage can cause cognitive dysfunction. Cigarette smoke contributes to:

  • Cognitive decline.
  • Reduced memory and cognitive abilities in adolescents.
  • Brain shrinkage (cerebral atrophy).


Studies indicate that exposure to environmental cigarette smoke and maternal smoking during pregnancy are significant factors in:


Other health problems associated with cigarette smoking are:

  • Wrinkling of the skin.
  • Smelling cloths and hair.
  • Yellowish fingers (2nd and 3rd) and finger nails.
  • Blindness in the elderly due to vascular degeneration.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm, a condition among women smokers where the weak area of their abdominal aorta expands or bulges.
  • Increased risk of bone fractures, especially hip fractures.
  • Local anesthetics hardly work for smokers during surgery.
  • Increased rate of postoperative healing complication.
  • Irritant effects in the eyes, nose and throat.
  • Loss of bone height.
  • Dry mouth.


People who use any type of tobacco product should be persuaded to quit. A smoker has increased risk of exposure to health hazards. This is directly proportional to the length of time as well as the quantity smoked.

However, if a smoker stops smoking, the risks gradually decrease as the body naturally repairs the damages. Cigarette smoking cessation offers significant health benefits to the majority of smokers. Identifying effective and appropriate cigarette smoking cessation interventions likely increase life expectancy and quality.  And consequently reduce overall health expenditure.

Two primary approaches to cigarette smoking cessation are behavioural and pharmacotherapy interventions. Behavioural interventions include self-help, minimal clinical interventions and intensive clinical interventions. Self-help involves the use of various materials that provide behavioural strategies for quitting.  These include printed leaflets, booklets, audio-tapes and internet programs. Self-help materials have potential to reach a large number of smokers at relatively low cost.   Minimal clinical interventions typically involve brief (less than 5 minutes) cessation advice from healthcare providers. This is delivered in the context of routine consultations, whether or not patients have actively sought advice on quitting cigarette smoking. Intensive clinical interventions also rely on behavioural methods to facilitate quitting.  But they are usually delivered over a period of time. They include individual behavioural modification counseling delivered by a familiar healthcare provider or a cigarette smoking cessation specialist. There are evidences that brief and opportunistic advice by healthcare professionals on cigarette smoking cessation increase the number and success of quit attempts.

Generally, these brief interventions during clinic interactions especially, should follow the guideline.  ‘Ask about smoking at every opportunity’. ‘Advise all patients/clients to quit’, emphasize cigarette smoking health hazards. Assess willingness to quit.  Assist in quitting and arrange follow-up in the month following quitting.  These could be achieved through proactive phone counseling and group behaviour modification sessions. Types of behavioural therapies that show effectiveness are problem-solving skills training.  Included are social support as part of treatment (example, group support) and social support outside of treatment (example, buddy system). However, it was found that some intensive behavioural approaches are effective cigarette smoking cessation interventions. They include relaxation/breathing, weight/diet therapy and most aversion methods.

Pharmacological interventions include Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT). This is available over the counter in countries like Australia to assist quitting and reduce withdrawal symptoms. Anti-depressants such as Zyban, fluoxetine and nortriplyline are available on prescription. Other tested pharmacological products include clonidine, mecamylamine, naltrexone, anxiolytics and silver acetate.

A range of other interventions are also available including acupuncture and hypnotherapy. There are records that pharmacotherapy combined with behavioural support significantly increase the success of smoking quit attempts.

There is need to enforce legislation that bans cigarette smoking in public places. And sale of cigarette to children and adolescents should not be permitted. There should be health education on ways to prevent the epidemic of cigarette smoke complications and diseases in the environment. It is also needful to establish formal cigarette smoking cessation programmes in our health facilities. In view of the prevailing health hazards of cigarette smoke, it is important to emphasize smoking cessation as a priority part of primary healthcare delivery.


Passive cigarette smoke could cause any of the health hazards associated with active smoking. Therefore, considering the health hazards of cigarette smoke, the need for committed partnership in smoking cessation is indisputable.  There is urgent need to develop a therapeutic partnership. This provides practical advice and support in order to surmount cigarette smoking and prevent its health hazards.

Physicians should routinely ask patients about their smoking status during clinical interactions. Also at any available contacts, other healthcare professionals should similarly engage patients. Smokers should be advised to consider the health hazards of cigarette smoke and benefits of smoking cessation. They should equally assess smokers’ attitude towards cigarette smoking cessation. Such advice should be individualized to the current health status of smokers. They must be assured that it is never too late to stop cigarette smoking.  And that they should never stop trying to stop. The support of close associates should be obtained and follow up visits arranged. Successful quitting should be applauded to discouraged relapse. Group sessions with cigarette smokers can also provide additional support. Check for important steps that will guide your quit efforts.

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