The Harmful Effects of Smoking

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My sister was a smoker and she died from lung cancer at the age of 55. She raised her daughter as a single mother often working two jobs to provide for her and make sure she had a good life. She poured her heart and soul into her daughter and loved her with everything she had. They were best friends. If my sister could have had a glimpse into the future to see that smoking would rob her of seeing her daughter get married, steal the joy of watching her daughter give birth to a beautiful baby boy and deny decades of enjoying her daughter and her grandson, I’m confident she would have found the will to stop smoking. 

Smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable death worldwide. Its detrimental effects on health are well-documented, ranging from immediate respiratory issues to long-term life-threatening diseases. The act of smoking involves inhaling over 7,000 chemicals, with at least 250 known to be harmful and more than 70 causing cancer.

Fortunately, the percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes in the U.S. has decreased from over 42% in 1965 to around 14% in 2019. However, smoking still remains an important public health challenge. If you had to choose one action step that would have the greatest impact on your health and longevity, it would be to stop smoking or never start. 

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Respiratory Issues

One of the most immediate and visible effects of smoking is its impact on the respiratory system. Smokers often suffer from shortness of breath, chronic coughing, and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections like pneumonia and bronchitis. Over time, smoking can lead to more severe conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and lung cancer. It is reported that 85% of all lung cancer cases are due to smoking. 

Cardiovascular Diseases

Beyond respiratory issues, smoking also significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. The chemicals in tobacco smoke damage blood vessels and reduce blood flow to vital organs, increasing the likelihood of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.

Decreased Life Expectancy

Perhaps the most alarming consequence of smoking is its impact on life expectancy. Studies have shown that smokers live, on average, 10 years less than non-smokers. The toxic cocktail of chemicals in tobacco smoke not only affects the lungs and heart but also damages nearly every organ in the body, leading to a range of health complications that can ultimately prove fatal.

Other Negative Impacts

There are other less deadly impacts of smoking that include bad breath, tooth discoloration, gum disease, tooth decay and persistent odors that can be socially and professionally problematic. 


Quitting smoking is challenging, but it’s never too late to quit and reap the health benefits.

Here are some tips from the American Lung Association to help you kick the habit:

Set a Quit Date

Choose a specific date to quit smoking and stick to it. Having a clear goal can motivate you to start your journey towards a smoke-free life.

Find Support

Tell your friends and family about your decision to quit. Their support can be invaluable during the tough times. 

Avoid Triggers

Identify your smoking triggers and try to avoid them. Whether it’s stress, social situations, or certain places, find healthier ways to cope.

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)

Consider using NRT products like patches, gum, or lozenges to help manage withdrawal symptoms. Speak to your physician about options. 

Seek Professional Help

Don’t hesitate to consult with a healthcare professional or join a support group. They can provide personalized advice and strategies to help you quit for good.

If you are a smoker, I hope the story of my sister inspires you to quit because not only did smoking negatively affect her health and life span and ultimately lead to her death, it also severely impacted her loved ones. The next time you light up, imagine that you are making the choice to reduce years and special memories with your loved ones and hopefully that will cause you to stop in your tracks.

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan


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