For more than half of century, smoking cigarettes has been associated with lung cancer. Despite warnings from scientists and the federal government, smoking rates held steady for some time after this research was released. Only in the last few decades have smoking rates begun to fall. More recent research, though, has focused on the damage smoking can do beyond your lungs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 440,000 people die each year in the U.S. alone from smoking-related health conditions. Lung cancer may be the big killer – 90 percent of lung cancer patients get it from smoking – but smoking can also cause bladder, kidney, throat, mouth, esophageal, pancreatic, stomach, blood, bowel, ovarian and cervical cancers.
And if the cancer doesn’t get you, here are other potential health problems that might convince you to quit (or never start).
- Smoking during pregnancy is linked to conduct disorders in children – characterized by aggressiveness, defiance and antisocial behavior, according to research from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom.
- For many years, smoking has been linked to cardiac problems, and a 2012 study from the University of Alberta found that even light-to-moderate smoking could dramatically increase a woman’s risk of heart attack. As little as one cigarette per day could be increasing a person’s risk of sudden cardiac death. Overall, smokers have double the risk of heart attack death than those who do not smoke.
- Smoking more than doubles the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, a 2013 report from the Karolinska Institutet and the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden found. In fact, the risk remained elevated even 15 years after a person had quit smoking.
- Feel like having a smoke during a long night of drinking? Think again. Smoking has been proven to make hangovers worse, according to research from Brown University.
It isn’t just smoking cigarettes either.
Cigar and pipe smoking aren’t much safer. According to research from Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, both pipe and cigar smoking can significantly reduce lung function – people who smoked them were more likely to suffer from airflow obstruction than people who had never smoked. Though tobacco-related health problems were fewer than in people who smoked cigarettes, cigars and pipes are far from “safe.”
And smoking marijuana can lower fertility in men by damaging sperm, cause respiratory problems in its own right and can even affect brain chemistry. Don’t believe the myths that marijuana doesn’t carry the same physical risks as tobacco smoking, and don’t think that marijuana doesn’t affect a person psychologically. And yes, marijuana is addictive.