Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The World Health Organization reports that each year tobacco kills up to half of users (over seven million people).
More adults in the United States die from tobacco than from alcohol, AIDS, car accidents, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined.
Most people know that smoking cigarettes and using other tobacco products can cause lung cancer, but tobacco can harm nearly every organ in the body. You may not be aware of the toll it takes on everything from your eyes and heart to your reproductive and immune systems. Some of the health impacts are immediate, while others take time to develop.
10 health impacts tied to tobaccoTobacco use increases your risk of these 10 health conditions:
- Other cancers — The National Cancer Institute links tobacco use to higher rates of cancer throughout the body, including the larynx (voice box), mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, and cervix.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — Smoking damages the airways and lining of your lungs, making it hard to breathe. COPD includes emphysema; chronic bronchitis; and in some cases, asthma. Smoking accounts for as many as 8 out of 10 COPD-related deaths, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Heart disease and stroke — Tobacco makes your blood thicker and more likely to clot, which contributes to cardiovascular disease and stroke. Smoking can also result in higher triglycerides, lower HDL or good fats in your blood and increased plaque buildup in your blood vessels, according to the CDC. People who use tobacco are two to three times more likely to suffer a heart attack, according to the University of Michigan Medicine.
- Damages to reproductive health — The CDC warns that tobacco exposure can stunt fertility and lead to birth defects. People who smoke are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction and difficulty having children. Toxins in cigarettes may also increase the risk of miscarriage, maternal death during labor and impair a child’s facial features, hearing and speech.
- Gum disease and tooth loss — Periodontal disease is common among tobacco users. Signs include bleeding gums, persistent bad breath and loose or separating teeth. The American Dental Hygienist Association reports that up to 27 percent of smokeless tobacco users experience tooth loss.
- Type 2 diabetes — Smokers are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC. The chemicals in tobacco also make it harder to control your insulin levels and can contribute to serious diabetic complications like limb amputation and nerve damage.
- Arthritis — Studies find that tobacco worsens rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Researchers speculate that tobacco toxins increase blood carbon monoxide levels, which accelerates cartilage loss and hampers cartilage repair.
- Low bone density — Tobacco use is directly related to decreased bone density, according to the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. The longer you consume tobacco, the higher your risk of fracture as you age.
- Vision loss — Smoking causes indoor air pollution and damage to blood vessels, which both contribute to poor eye health. Macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and dry eye can occur, and result in vision loss or total blindness.
- Decreased immune system functioning — Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, and many of them can make it harder for the body to fight disease. A 2017 study in the journal Oncotarget found that tobacco compromises the immune system and can lead to autoimmune diseases like lupus. Tobacco use also raises the white blood cell count, making it harder for the body to heal from sickness. In addition, white blood cell counts that stay elevated for a long time are linked with an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
How tobacco impacts your finances
Tobacco impacts more than just your body. It impacts your wallet, too. Cigarettes cost $5 to $10 per pack in many states, which can add up quickly. More importantly, there are high health care costs associated with tobacco, to the tune of $300 billion a year, according the the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This includes $170 million in direct medical costs along with another $156 billion in lost productivity due to illness and death.
There is no safe level of tobacco use. The chemicals and toxins affect every area of your body. Plus, the price tag of using tobacco is high, potentially costing you thousands of dollars and robbing years from your life. Tobacco impacts your health and your financial future. Consider quitting today.