Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, which is highly addictive and one of the reasons why it’s so hard to quit smoking.
But it also contains more than 4,000 chemicals (like carbon monoxide, arsenic and benzene), some of which cause cancer. These chemicals can also damage your organs and add years to your appearance —beyond the yellowing of fingers, nails and teeth.
Effects of smoking on your skin
- Skin cancer — Smokers are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma — one of the most common types of skin cancer.
- Premature skin aging — Early skin damage can be hard to spot. But just 10 years of smoking can speed up the aging process. Nicotine can narrow the blood vessels and lessen blood flow to your skin — which means it’s deprived of oxygen and nutrients (like vitamin A). But that’s not all. The other chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage collagen and elastin (which provide strength and elasticity to your skin). All this can cause exactly what you’re trying to avoid: sagging skin and wrinkles.And the simple act of smoking can also increase wrinkles around your mouth (puckering when you inhale) and eyes (squinting when you exhale).
- Psoriasis — Studies show that those who smoke have a much higher risk of developing psoriasis than non-smokers.
- Slowed healing — Reduced blood flow and oxygen, and the possibility that smoking affects your immune system, may slow your body’s ability to heal sores and wounds.
Effects of smoking on your hair
- Get grey sooner — While grey hair is caused by aging, health and hereditary may also come into play. Smoking is not a cause of greying hair — but it does make hair go grey sooner.
Effects of smoking on your eyes
- Glaucoma — Smoking can increase eye pressure and damage the optic nerve, which can result in glaucoma.
- Cataracts — Compared to non-smokers, smokers are 2-3 times more likely to develop cataracts. Cataracts (when your eye’s lens becomes cloudy) is the leading cause of blindness in the world.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) — Smokers and anyone exposed to secondhand smoke are more susceptible to AMD, which can lead to partial or total blindness.
Effects of smoking on your mouth
Along with stained teeth and bad breath, smoking can wreak havoc on your mouth.
- Oral cancer — Smoking can increase your risk cancer of the mouth, lips and throat. This can result in sores and lumps that may be visible when your mouth is wide open. And if they require surgery to be removed, then your face may look different.
- Tooth decay and gum disease (periodontitis) — About one-half to one-third of adults with periodontitis — that causes gums to turn red and bleed, and tooth loss — are smokers.
Remember though: quitting comes with benefits that extend beyond your appearance.
For more information, visit Find Support and search “smoking” for organizations and resources in your area.