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The Consequences of Smoking and Why You Should Quit

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Dec 14, 2022

The Consequences of Smoking and Why You Should Quit

According to the World Health Organization, smoking kills an estimate of eight million every year. Data also shows that 19% of adults all around the world are smokers, with men being more likely to smoke than women. Smoking has been proven to cause a myriad of health problems like cancer, and yet the numbers show that a considerable amount of people all across the globe still choose to smoke. The good news is it’s never too late to quit. The benefits of quitting smoking can be felt within minutes of your last cigarette.

Learn more about smoking, and why so many people find it difficult to quit.

Why Is Smoking Addictive?

Smoking is a difficult habit to kick because most cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance. If your body gets used to smoking, you will start craving the effects of nicotine. And soon you will become addicted to it. 

Smokers usually find smoking enjoyable because nicotine alters the levels of dopamine and noradrenaline in the brain. These lower stress and anxiety levels temporarily. However, the effects of nicotine diminish quickly. Once a person’s body gets used to nicotine, they will have to smoke more cigarettes in order to feel the same effect. This is how a person gets addicted to smoking.

Aside from nicotine, cigarettes also contain harmful chemicals like:

  • Arsenic – This naturally occurring substance is found in the earth’s crust, and its inorganic form is used to preserve wood. Long-time exposure to arsenic can lead to arsenic poisoning.
  • Formaldehyde – This substance is usually used as embalming fluid, but is also found in cigarettes. When inhaled, it can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Formaldehyde is also a known carcinogen.
  • Cadmium – Cadmium is a type of metal which is used in batteries. When cadmium interacts with the human body, it can affect the kidney, respiratory, and even skeletal system. Cadmium is also known to increase your likelihood of cancer.
  • Tar – This substance forms when tobacco in cigarettes is burned. Tar creates a sticky layer on the inside of the lungs when it is inhaled. And it can lead to serious respiratory conditions like cancer.

Effects of Smoking on Your Health

Harmful substances found in cigarettes are just the beginning. Smoking can have negative effects on your health like:

  • Stroke: Smoking makes blood vessels grow narrower which makes a person more at risk of high blood pressure and blood clots, which can inevitably lead to stroke.
  • Lung Diseases: Smoking damages the alveoli in the lungs which can lead to various diseases of the lungs, and even lung cancer.
  • Cancer: Smoking increases a person’s risk of developing cancer in all parts of the body, not just the lungs.
  • Fertility: Smoking affects a person’s fertility, making it harder for them to conceive. 

Benefits of Quitting Smoking: Why You Should Quit

One of the main reasons why you should consider quitting is the simple fact that it will add more years to your life. One of the best benefits of quitting smoking is that your loved ones will be safe from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. 

To give you a clear picture of why you should stop smoking, here are the benefits of quitting smoking hour by hour

  • 20 minutes: After just 20 minutes since your last cigarette, your blood pressure and heart rate will return to normal. Your lungs will start working to remove the harmful substances you inhaled from smoking.
  • 8 hours: Once you reach the eight hour mark, the oxygen levels in your blood will increase. This puts your body at less risk of impaired function. 
  • 12 hours: In just 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels in your body will return to normal. This means that your body will start supplying oxygen-rich blood to your cells.
  • 24 hours: Your risk of heart attack decreases.

Over time, if you manage to completely eliminate cigarette smoking from your life, your body will be able to restore itself to a healthier state. Keep the benefits of quitting smoking in mind to help you deal with nicotine withdrawal.

Side-Effects of Nicotine Withdrawal

Once your body gets used to the nicotine found in cigarettes, it can be much more difficult to quit smoking. This is because you undergo withdrawal. During the first week of your attempts to quit smoking, you’ll feel the urge to smoke which can cause you to relapse.

Some symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are:

  • Having a difficulty in focusing
  • Restlessness
  • Insomnia, or staggered sleep
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Weight gain

People also report feeling flu-like symptoms, or just feeling flat-out terrible. This can often make a person start smoking again. If you’re suffering any symptoms from withdrawal, then you may consult your physician about Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) which can involve products like patches, gum, or even lozenges. These can help divert your attention away from your cravings.

Is It Normal for Your Chest To Hurt After Quitting Smoking?

Some people report feeling chest pain once they quit smoking, and this can definitely be part of withdrawal symptoms. You may also feel constipated or be nauseous during the first few weeks of quitting. If chest pain and other symptoms persist beyond that, contact your healthcare provider right away.

Key Takeaways

The benefits of quitting smoking are many and almost immediate. Keep that in mind to motivate yourself.
Quitting your smoking habit is the first step to becoming a healthier and better version of yourself. It can be an uphill battle trying to live a nicotine-free life, which is why it’s important to remain steadfast. Some experts believe that the best way to quit is by going cold turkey. However, never be afraid of trying again if you fail.
For more information about your options regarding Nicotine Replacement Therapy and other things you can do to stop smoking, it’s best to consult a health professional.

Learn more about Quitting Smoking here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Ruby Anne Hornillos · Updated Dec 14, 2022

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