What you need to know about the health harzards of cigarette smoking habits

It is essential to know that cigarette smoking causes cancers and promotes infections, male impotency and female infertility. It is responsible for majority of pulmonary, heart, skin, kidney, psychological, social, behavioural, cognitive and birth dysfunctions among others. Cigarette smoking 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 smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable death 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 smoking-related illnesses and by 2030 it is estimated that this value will rise to 10 million deaths each year (70% of these deaths 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, 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 which 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, including 50 known or suspected carcinogens in cigarette smoke 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.


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


Cigarette smoking 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, liver, kidney, lungs and areas such as hands and feet. 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. It is very important to identify the number of diseases among the population that is attributable to or aggravated by chemicals from cigarette smoking. They include:


The primary risks of cigarette usage include several forms of cancers, many of which have extremely low cure rates, particularly:


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

  • Weakens the body immune system and 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 found in cigarette smoke such as carbon monoxide and cyanide are believed to be responsible for pulmonary damage and loss of elasticity in the alveoli, leading 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, 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 permanently damaged.
  • 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 smoking-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 for various other oral diseases, some of which are almost completely 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 smoking causes impotency because it promotes arterial narrowing in approximately 85% of male smokers.

It causes erectile dysfunction (through vascular disease).


Cigarette smoking is harmful to the ovaries and 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, a hormone that regulates folliculogenesis and ovulation.
  • Chemicals in cigarette smoke alter folliculogenesis, embryo transport, endometrial receptivity, endometrial angiogenesis, uterine blood flow and the uterine myometrium.

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


Cigarette smoking causes these psychological problems:

  • Adolescent smokers report of increasing levels of daily mental stress 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. Smoking has been found to contribute to:

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


A number of scientific 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 the 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 person’s increased risk of exposure to health hazards is directly proportional to the length of time that the person continues to smoke 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 are more likely to 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 including printed leaflets, booklets, audio-tapes and internet programs. Self-help materials have potential to reach a large number of smokers at a relatively low cost.   Minimal clinical interventions typically involve brief (less than 5 minutes) cessation advice from healthcare providers, 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 are usually delivered over a period of time and include individual behavioural modification counseling delivered by a familiar healthcare provider or a cigarette smoking cessation specialist. There were strong and consistent evidences that brief and opportunistic advice on cigarette smoking cessation given by healthcare professionals increased 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, emphasizing 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. The types of behavioural therapies that have been shown to be effective are problem-solving skills training, 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 which include relaxation/breathing, weight/diet therapy and most aversion methods.

Pharmacological interventions include Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) which 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 increased the success of cigarette smoking quit attempts.

Enforcing legislation that bans cigarette smoking in public places; and sale of cigarette to children and adolescents among other measures that should include health education are possible ways of preventing the epidemic of cigarette smoking 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 smoking, it is important to emphasize smoking cessation as a priority part of primary healthcare delivery.



Passive cigarette smoking could cause any of the health hazards associated with active smoking. Therefore considering the health hazards of cigarette smoking, the need for committed partnership in smoking cessation is undisputable.  There is urgent need to develop a therapeutic partnership which 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. They should readily render advice to cigarette smokers on the need to consider the health hazards of cigarette smoking and benefits of smoking cessation; and assess their 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 where success is applauded and quitters encouraged so as to avoid relapse. Group sessions with cigarette smokers can also provide additional support. The step-by-step quit guide is available online at Smokefree.gov.

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