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Assessment of the Biological Effects of Smoking Cigarettes by Jessie Kuehler

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Cigarette smoking can have major negative biological effects on the human body. It is common knowledge that smoking can cause lung cancer, but it can also cause many other types of cancer as well. Along with cancer, smoking can also cause disease. The poisons from cigarette smoke can most commonly cause cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease. The reproductive health in both males and females can be damaged due to the mass amount of chemicals in cigarette smoke. Cancer, disease, and negative effects of reproductive health are the major three among many other biological consequences of smoking cigarettes.

According to the Surgeon General Report (2010), using tobacco can cause cancer in many parts of the body, including the lungs, mouth, nose, throat, larynx, trachea, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, cervix, bone marrow and blood. The longer a person has smoked and the more cigarettes a person smokes in a day, the higher their risk of developing cancer. Both menthol and non-menthol cigarettes equally cause cancer (Hoffman 2011). Lung, throat, and mouth cancer are the most common cancers among all smokers (Macnair 2011). These three cancers are rarely seen in non-smokers. There are over 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. Many of the chemicals damage the DNA, which contains the genes that control normal cell growth and function. When the DNA is damaged, the cells will begin growing abnormally, which then causes cancer (Surgeon General Report 2010). Typically, the body’s immune system responds to abnormal cell growth and can attack and kill these cells. However, many of the chemicals in cigarette smoke inhibit this process and make it easier for abnormal cells to keep growing and reproducing.

Cigarette smoking is the major cause of cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke and is the main cause of death due to smoking. One-fifth of all deaths due to cardiovascular disease are linked to smoking (Macnair 2011). Both menthol and non-menthol cigarettes can equally cause cardiovascular disease (Hoffman 2011). Breathing tobacco smoke damages the sensitive cells that line blood vessels throughout the body. These very important cells maintain proper blood flow, and when they are damaged they do not function properly. As a result, blood flow to and from the heart can be blocked (Surgeon General Report 2010). The short-term effects include higher heart rate and blood pressure. However, over time the walls of blood vessels thicken and the vessels become narrower. This affects blood flow and increases the risk for blood clots. Smoking can cause chemical changes that make platelets in the blood stick together and form clots. The chemicals in tobacco smoke also interfere with the body’s ability to repair damage in the lining of arteries (Surgeon General Report 2010). Clots are more likely to form in a damaged artery than in a non-damaged artery. Blood clots can block blood flow to the heart causing a heart attack and block blood flow to the brain causing a stroke. Blood clots can also block blood flow to the limbs, which can possibly require amputation.

Smoking causes lung disease, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD. COPD includes the diseases emphysema and chronic bronchitis (Surgeon General Report 2010). People who smoke both menthol and non-menthol cigarettes are equally at risk for developing COPD (Hoffman 2011). Smoking is responsible for 80 percent of COPD cases. In the human body, oxygen moves from the lungs to the blood through small blood vessels that line the air sacs inside of the lungs. Smoking tobacco can damage the sensitive tissue inside the air sacs and destroy the lining of the lungs. Elastin is a necessary protein that enables the lungs to expand and contract (Macnair 2011). Tobacco smoke deteriorates the elastin in the lungs. The reduced ability of the lungs to expand and contract is called emphysema. Emphysema causes the walls inside of the lungs to lose their ability to stretch and shrink back (Surgeon General Report 2010). This makes it difficult for tobacco smokers to get enough oxygen to supply their bodies. Bronchitis is the swelling of the lining of the bronchial tubes (Surgeon General Report 2010). When the bronchial’s are swollen they become narrow and less air can flow to and from the lungs. Over time, the lining of the bronchial tubes thickens and the airways can eventually become scarred and blocked. Tobacco smoking also causes other respiratory damage. Cilia are small hair-like feelers that keep the lungs clear and protect the airways by sweeping away mucus and dust particles (Surgeon General Report). Tobacco smoke destroys these cilia and inhibits them from being able to keep the lungs clear of particles. People are more likely to develop the “smoker cough” as they attempt to remove the particles from their lungs. Smokers also have an increased risk of developing respiratory infections like pneumonia (Macnair 2011). The lungs naturally have a defense system to protect against any injury. However, tobacco smoke can overwhelm this system and cause damage to the lung tissue. Exposure to tobacco smoke over a long period causes the body to become less able to repair damaged lung tissue (Surgeon General Report).

Men and women who are planning to have children should not smoke. Current studies show that smoking affects estrogen and other hormones, making it more difficult for women to become pregnant (Surgeon General Report). Exposure to tobacco smoke reduces the effective functioning of the fallopian tubes, also making it more difficult to become pregnant. Women should not smoke during their pregnancy. Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide, a substance that deprives the fetus of oxygen (Hoffman 2011). Along with carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke contains other toxic chemicals that can inhibit the proper growth of a fetus. Studies have shown a link between smoking and miscarriages among women (Macnair 2011). Women who smoke while they are pregnant are more likely to deliver preterm babies with a low birth weight. Babies who are born too small or too early are not healthy. Babies whose mothers smoke are three times as likely to die from SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The effects of tobacco use on reproductive health are not limited to women. Smoking damages the important DNA that every man’s sperm carries. This DNA damage can decrease fertility or lead to miscarriage (Surgeon General Report).

The best way to prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and negative reproductive health is to quit smoking. Along with the obvious health benefits, quitting smoking can improve the headaches, tiredness, and loss of sense of taste and smell that was caused by tobacco smoke (Macnair 2011). Unfortunately, quitting is not an easy task. On average, it takes a person four to five attempts to quit smoking altogether (Macnair 2011). Luckily, there are multiple substitutions to help aid a person quit. Nicotine replacement in the form of gum or patches can be used to quit. Medications like Zyban and Champix are also prescribed to help quit smoking tobacco (Macnair 2011).

Tobacco smoke has many negative biological effects on the human body. It can cause many types of cancers all over the body. Tobacco smoke can also cause respiratory diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke can have a major effect on the blood and cause heart disease, stroke, or heart attack. Men and women who are trying to have children shouldn’t smoke because it has negative effects on reproductive health. Quitting smoking is a difficult task, but it will drastically improve a person’s overall health and well-being.


Works Cited

Hoffman, Allison. “ Tobacco Induced Diseases: Health Effects of Menthol Cigarettes as Compared to Non-menthol Cigarettes.” Journal of BMC Medicine 9.1 (2011): n. pag. Available: Web. 13 Nov. 2011.
Macnair, Patricia. “Smoking-Health Risks.” Netdoctor. N.p., 11 Feb. 2011.
Available: Web. 13 Nov. 2011.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology
and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General.” Office of the Surgeon General. 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. Available: Web. 13 Nov. 2011.


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