Health effects of smoking

Smoking kills

Half of all long-term smokers will die from a smoking-related disease.

Around 5000 people die each year in New Zealand because of smoking or second-hand smoke exposure. That’s 13 people a day. It is not too late to quit.

How smoking affects your body

Every cigarette you smoke is harming nearly every organ and system in your body. More than 60 of the chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause cancer.

Your lungs: Cigarette smoke damages the tiny hairs (cilia) that help clean your lungs. Without these hairs, toxins from cigarette smoke remain in the lungs, and can move to other organs via the bloodstream. Your lungs are also coated in tar. Smoking is the cause of over 80 percent of lung cancer in New Zealand.

Your skin: Smokers tend to get wrinkles sooner than non-smokers. This may be because smoking reduces blood flow and may damage tissue (elastin and collagen).

Your blood: Many of the chemicals in tobacco smoke end up in your bloodstream, and can travel throughout your body.

Carbon monoxide robs your muscles, brain and body of oxygen. Every cigarette you smoke temporarily increases your heart rate and blood pressure, and narrows the small blood vessels under your skin. It slows your blood flow, reducing oxygen to your feet and hands. Your fingers and toes become colder.
– Tobacco kills, Quitline

Your mouth: Smoking causes gum disease, oral cancer, loss of taste, stained teeth, mouth sores and bad breath. Visit Smoking and oral health for more information.

Risks to children

Kids who have a parent who smokes are seven times more likely to become smokers.

  • Photo of two parents playing with their toddlers. Smoking around children increases their risk of serious infections that affect breathing, such as:
    • croup
    • bronchitis
    • pneumonia.
  • They’re also more likely to catch coughs, colds or wheezes.
  • Smoking dramatically increases the risk of cot death (sudden unexpected death in infancy) for infants.
  • Smoking increases the risk of your children contracting glue ear and other middle ear infections.
  • Smoking increases the risk of your children getting meningococcal disease.

Photo credits:
1.Two paths photo by Michael Stephens / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
2. Parents and children photo used courtesy of Quitline.
3. Inhaler photo by Stuart B / CC BY-NC 2.0.

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