Smoking—the burning of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and electronic cigarettes—has serious consequences for the health of your lungs. Damage to the lungs leads to lung diseases like cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (which includes emphysema and bronchitis), and increases your risk of infections such as tuberculosis.
Your lungs are responsible for delivering oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body. But smoking can damage them, making it difficult to breathe.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Tobacco smoke damages the lungs by irritating and damaging the lining of the airways and causing inflammation and swelling. This restricts the flow of oxygen, making it harder to breathe. This long-term damage is called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It includes conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
COPD can cause a variety of symptoms, such as a chronic cough with mucus or phlegm, shortness of breath, wheezing and fatigue. It also increases the risk of infection and may lead to a reduction in quality of life.
It is estimated that smokers die from COPD at a rate of about 480,000 per year. This makes it the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. It is also responsible for about 90% of lung cancer deaths.
Smoking also increases the risk of other types of cancer. These include cancers of the nose, sinuses, voice box and throat. In addition, it increases the risk of getting tuberculosis and can reduce the effectiveness of treatment. Stopping smoking dramatically reduces the chance of developing respiratory diseases and can improve a person’s overall health.
Increased Risk of Lung Cancer
The lungs are two spongy organs in the chest that take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide. They are the most important respiratory organs, and they are susceptible to damage from cigarette smoking. Smoking damages the lung tissue, which can result in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and cancer. Lung cancer is the leading cause of death due to cancer worldwide, and it has a strong link with smoking. The chemicals in cigarettes, called carcinogens, cause changes to the lungs’ cells that can lead to cancer over time.
Smoking can also increase the risk of developing other cancers, such as throat, pancreatic, and colon cancer. In addition, smoking increases the risk of developing other respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and pneumonia. It is also associated with decreased exercise capacity and an increased incidence of gastrointestinal tract ulcers. There is evidence that a person’s chance of developing lung cancer can be reduced by quitting smoking, and yearly screening using low-dose CT scans is recommended for smokers who are at high risk.
Reduced Lung Function
Smoking is a dangerous habit that causes damage to nearly every part of the lungs. It can also make a person more susceptible to developing respiratory infections. It can also lead to a wide variety of respiratory symptoms, including wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and lung cancer.
Cigarette smoke inhales toxins into the lungs, which cause the cells that line the bronchial tubes and bronchioles to break down. It also damages the tiny air sacs in the lungs (alveoli), causing them to become larger, which makes it harder for people to breathe. The lungs also produce more mucus due to the damaged cells, which can irritate and inflame the lungs and make breathing even more difficult.
Studies have shown that smoking leads to a decrease in the lung’s ability to expand when you breathe in. Each pack of cigarettes smoked per day is associated with a decline in FEV1 (forced expiratory volume at one second) by 8-10 mL/year, which exceeds the rate of decline seen in nonsmokers. For smokers who are susceptible to COPD, a sustained cessation of smoking can reduce the rate of decline in lung function.
Development of Chronic Bronchitis
Cigarette smoking is the primary cause of chronic bronchitis. Smoking causes inflammation of the lungs and increases mucus production, which leads to scarring of the lung tissues. People who smoke and have asthma or cystic fibrosis are more at risk of developing chronic bronchitis. Long-term exposure to air pollution and chemical fumes, vapors and dusts can also irritate the lungs and lead to chronic bronchitis. A genetic disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency may also contribute to the development of chronic bronchitis in some people.
Chronic bronchitis is one of the main types of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The other major type of COPD is emphysema, which affects the airways and small air sacs in the lungs (alveoli). People with both chronic bronchitis and emphysema are often at high risk for severe complications from breathing problems.
If you have chronic bronchitis, your doctor will diagnose you with a pulmonary function test and chest X-rays. Treatment options include bronchodilators, steroids, and oxygen therapy. Smoking cessation is the best way to prevent chronic bronchitis.
Emphysema is a long-term lung condition that causes breathing difficulties. It occurs when the inner walls of the air sacs in your lungs (alveoli) weaken and rupture. This reduces the surface area of your lungs and makes it harder to get oxygen into your bloodstream.
Smoking is the main cause of emphysema. It can also be caused by long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as fumes, dust, or chemicals. Symptoms of emphysema include shortness of breath, coughing with mucus, and wheezing. People who smoke tend to have worse emphysema than non-smokers.
The outlook for emphysema depends on how much you smoke and whether you quit smoking. In some cases, emphysema improves after you stop smoking. Other treatment options for emphysema include medications and surgery. For advanced emphysema, experimental procedures such as lung volume reduction surgery and transplant may be an option. A nutritious diet and regular physical activity are important to help control emphysema symptoms. People with emphysema should avoid consuming foods rich in sugar and red meat. They should also consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish, and olive oil to maintain a healthy weight.
Worsening of Asthma Symptoms
Tobacco smoke irritates the lungs and makes symptoms of asthma worse. This is because cigarette smoke contains irritating substances that settle in the lungs’ moist lining, causing coughing and excess mucus. It also damages tiny hair-like structures in the lungs called cilia, which normally sweep dust and mucus from the lungs. When cilia are damaged, mucus and dust accumulate in the lungs and trigger asthma symptoms.
Cigarette smoke also interferes with the way medications work to treat asthma, which can cause them to become less effective. As a result, smokers experience more severe and frequent asthma attacks.
Smokers with asthma have an increased rate of asthma exacerbations and lower indices of health status compared to nonsmokers with the condition. They also have a higher use of asthma rescue medication, which is a sign that their symptoms are not being controlled by the prescribed medicine. As a result, they require more healthcare services in the form of hospital admissions, visits to general practitioners and emergency departments. Long-term smoking also increases the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.
Greater Susceptibility to Respiratory Infections
Every organ in the body has an important role, but the lungs are especially vital. The lungs take in oxygen, expel carbon dioxide, and help us breathe during exercise or other activities. Damage to the lungs can cause serious disease and even death. Cigarette smoking is one of the most common causes of lung disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and lung cancer.
Smoking reduces the ability of the lungs to clear the airways of mucus and other debris, leading to coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. It also increases the risk of infections, such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.
In a recent study, researchers found that current smokers were more likely to be diagnosed with respiratory viral infection and illness than non-smokers. This is probably due to the fact that smoke damages the respiratory epithelium. This results in alterations in host defense mechanisms, including inflammation and fibrosis of the lungs, changes in pathogen adherence, and disruption of immune homeostasis. The findings from this study support previous observations that smoking is a risk factor for lower respiratory tract infections, including influenza and pneumonia.
Smoking harms every organ in your body, but it affects the lungs particularly hard. It damages the lungs’ tiny hairs, called cilia, which help clear dirt and mucus out of the airway. This makes you more likely to get infections that can damage or even kill the lungs, like tuberculosis and pneumonia.
It can also cause emphysema, which causes the walls between the lung’s small sacs to break down, making them larger and less efficient at moving oxygen from the air into the blood. It can also irritate and thicken the lungs’ air passages, which increases your risk of asthma attacks.
Additionally, cigarette smoke contains over 70 cancer-causing chemicals that can lead to lung cancer. It can increase your risk of dying from cancer in the lungs by about 20%, and it can cause it to spread to other parts of the body more quickly. Smoking also harms unborn babies, causing ectopic pregnancies, in which the fertilized egg implants in some other part of the body than the uterus. This can cause miscarriage and death in the mother, as well as reduce a baby’s chance of survival.