Smoking -- even just a few cigarettes a day -- has been linked to many serious health risks. Up to half of all current tobacco users will die from a tobacco-related disease, some of which are discussed below.
Effects on the Lungs
According to the American Lung Association, smoking is directly responsible for about 90% of the deaths due to lung cancer. Smoking is also responsible for the majority of deaths due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Smoking reduces a person's ability to control their asthma, interfering with the response to steroid medicine and worsening lung function.
All forms of tobacco raise the risk for heart attacks. Smoking, chewing tobacco, and being exposed to secondhand smoke greatly increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. In some cases, the risk of heart problems in people who smoke or who are exposed to smoke may be three times greater than that of people who don't smoke. The risk of a heart attack in people who stop smoking decreases over time.
Smoking also significantly increases the risk of peripheral artery disease, which damages the blood vessels in the legs and increases the risk of disability and even amputation.
Effects on Male Fertility and Erectile Dysfunction
Smoking can harm a man's sexuality and fertility. Heavy smoking is frequently cited as a contributing factor in erectile dysfunction because it decreases the amount of blood flowing into the penis.
Smoking impairs sperm motility, reduces sperm lifespan, and may cause genetic changes that can affect a man's offspring. Men and women who smoke have lower success rates with fertility treatments. Men who smoke also have a lower sex drive and less frequent sex.
Effects on Female Infertility, Pregnancy, and Childbirth
Review Date: 09/08/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.