Smoking is bad for you. There is no doubt about it. There is no debate.
What Are the General Health Problems Caused by Smoking?
For starters, in men, smoking can cause cancer of the lungs, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, and stomach, as well as leukemia1,2. It also seriously damages the structure of lungs and the lining of blood vessels, which may lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart disease. COPD and heart disease literally deprive our bodies of oxygen. This oxygen deprivation can lead to physical inactivity, weakness, and constant fatigue.
How Does Smoking Specifically Affect Men?
In addition to cancer, heart disease, and lung disease, it increases your risk of erectile dysfunction.3,4 The same blood vessels that feed your heart also feed your penis. Damaged or obstructed blood vessels make it more difficult to acquire and maintain an erection. Some studies have even shown that smoking decreases testosterone levels in men.5-9
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If you smoke, you should quit immediately. Quitting at any time will lower your risk of any of the above problems and can improve your symptoms if you already have one or more of them. (See Quitting Smoking Medicines, Resources, and Tips.
Smoking and Cancer
The relationship between smoking and cancer is indisputable. Smoking is a leading cause of cancer. In men specifically, smoking is associated with cancer of the lungs, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and colorectal cancer as well as leukemia.1,2
Smoking and Lung Cancer
Lung cancer causes the greatest number of total cancer deaths. Cigarette smoking is a leading cause many lung cancers. In fact, men who smoke are approximately 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer than men who do not smoke. Smoking is responsible for approximately 90% of lung cancer deaths in men.1-2
Why Does Smoking Cause Cancer?
Smoking and cancer are related all the way down to the genetic level. Carcinogens (chemicals known to cause cancer) in tobacco smoke damage genes that control the growth of cells. Damage from carcinogens to these cells causes certain cells to grow abnormally or to reproduce too rapidly and without control.
Does Quitting Smoking Lower the Risk of Cancer?
YES! Quitting smoking does decrease your risk of developing cancer. So, it is never too late to quit. It does take several years after quitting for the risk to begin to decline. However, the risk continues to decline the longer you remain smoke free.2
Should Someone Already Diagnosed with Cancer Bother to Quit?
YES! Smoking decreases the body’s ability to heal. So, if you are having surgery, chemotherapy, or another treatment for cancer, your recovery time will be dramatically decreased if you quit smoking. Quitting will also lower your risk of pneumonia and respiratory failure.2,8 Plus, quitting smoking will lower your risk of cancer recurrence and of new cancer development.
Smoking and Lung Disease
It should come as no surprise that smoking and lung disease are intimately related. Smoking causes lung problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and its component diseases: chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Smoking and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Smokers have a 10 fold greater risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than non-smokers!1 Nearly 90% of all deaths from COPD are related to cigarette smoking.
Just like heart disease, COPD decreases blood oxygen levels by damaging lung structure and decreasing airflow into and out of the lung. This damage initially results in mild shortness of breath but gradually progresses to profound breathlessness, which can seriously interfere with activities of daily living. Unfortunately, men with COPD typically live for many years with permanent disability and discomfort.
How Does Smoking Affect the Lungs?
The lungs transfer oxygen from the air into the blood stream and remove carbon dioxide from the blood stream. This process takes place in thousands of tiny air sacs within the lungs. Smoking destroys the ability of these air sacs to deliver oxygen into the blood and remove carbon dioxide from it. This damage literally prevents a smoker from getting enough oxygen.
Does Quitting Smoking Lower the Risk of Lung Disease?
YES! No matter how long you have smoked, quitting smoking will reduce your risk of developing and dying from lung disease.
Should Someone Already Diagnosed with Lung Disease Bother to Quit?
YES! Unfortunately, COPD is not considered to be a reversible condition. So, once you have it, you have it forever. However, quitting smoking can dramatically slow the progression of COPD.
Smoking and Heart Disease & Stroke
By now, most people realize that smoking and heart disease and stroke are related. Smoking does not simply damage the lungs but damages the heart and brain as well (along with just about everything else in the body). In fact, smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart disease and/or stroke.1
Smoking and Heart Disease
Heart disease may cause chest pain, arrhythmias, heart attack, heart failure, or even death. Additionally, heart disease can cause prevent oxygenation of the blood resulting in a constant feeling of fatigue
How Does Smoking Affect the Heart?
Smoking decreases oxygen delivery to your heart and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. Smoking also causes damage to the cells lining your arteries and blood vessels. Lastly, it also causes the buildup of plaque in arteries, which can lead to blocked arteries and interrupted blood flow.
Does Quitting Smoking Lower the Risk of Heart Disease?
YES! No matter how long you have smoked, quitting smoking will reduce your risk of developing and dying from heart disease. Plus, quitting will improve your blood oxygenation, which will help you become more active.
Should Someone Already Diagnosed with Heart Disease Bother to Quit?
YES! If you already have heart disease, quitting smoking will reduce your risk of sudden cardiac death, second heart attack, and death from other chronic diseases.
Smoking and Erectile Dysfunction
Smoking causes erectile dysfunction!3,4 The more your smoke, the greater your risk. Read on to learn specifically how smoking can cause erectile dysfunction.
Smoking can damage both your short-term and long-term sexual performance. Acutely, smoking causes blood vessel constriction.9 Chronically, smoking contributes to heart disease, atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in your blood vessels), and damage to blood vessel walls. The penis needs blood flow to achieve and maintain an erection. Anything that restricts or obstructs this blood flow will contribute to erectile dysfunction.
It’s Never Too Late To Quit
You might be saying to yourself, “I have been a smoker for 20 years, what is the point in quitting now?” Well, the likelihood of developing erectile dysfunction is directly related to the number of cumulative pack years smoked.10 This basically means that the more you have smoked over time, the higher your chance is of getting erectile dysfunction. However, it is never too late to quit smoking and eliminate smoking as a major risk factor for erectile dysfunction.
1. Services USDoHaH. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2010.
2. Services USDoHaH. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2004.
3. Saigal CS, Wessells H, Pace J, Schonlau M, Wilt TJ, Project UDiA. Predictors and prevalence of erectile dysfunction in a racially diverse population. Arch Intern Med. Jan 2006; 166 (2): 207-212.
4. Grover SA, Lowensteyn I, Kaouache M, et al. The prevalence of erectile dysfunction in the primary care setting: importance of risk factors for diabetes and vascular disease. Arch Intern Med. Jan 2006; 166 (2): 213-219.
5. Zmuda JM, Cauley JA, Kriska A, Glynn NW, Gutai JP, Kuller LH. Longitudinal relation between endogenous testosterone and cardiovascular disease risk factors in middle-aged men. A 13-year follow-up of former Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial participants. Am J Epidemiol. Oct 1997; 146 (8): 609-617.
6. Pearson JD, Blackman MR, Metter EJ. Effects of age and cigarette smoking on longitudinal changes in androgens and SHBG in healthy men. Washington, DC: (Abstract 323). In: Proceedings of the 77th Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society; 1995.
7. Briggs MH. Cigarette smoking and infertility in men. Med J Aust. Mar 1973; 1 (12): 616-617.
8. McBride CM, Ostroff JS. Teachable moments for promoting smoking cessation: the context of cancer care and survivorship. Cancer Control. 2003 Jul-Aug 2003; 10 (4): 325-333.
9. Kiowski W, Linder L, Stoschitzky K, et al. Diminished vascular response to inhibition of endothelium-derived nitric oxide and enhanced vasoconstriction to exogenously administered endothelin-1 in clinically healthy smokers. Circulation. Jul 1994; 90 (1): 27-34.
10. Kupelian V, Link CL, McKinlay JB. Association between smoking, passive smoking, and erectile dysfunction: results from the Boston Area Community Health (BACH) Survey. Eur Urol. Aug 2007; 52 (2): 416-422.