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How Cigarettes Affect Your Health

Published on Sep 05, 2023


A cigarette is a small roll of finely cut tobacco leaves wrapped in a cylinder of thin paper for smoking. The cigarette is ignited at one end and allowed to smoulder; its smoke is inhaled from the other end, which is held in or to the mouth and in some cases a cigarette holder may be used as well. Most modern manufactured cigarettes are filtered and include reconstituted tobacco and other additives.

The term cigarette, commonly used, refers to a tobacco cigarette but can apply to similar devices containing other herbs, such as cloves or cannabis. A cigarette is distinguished from a cigar by its smaller size, use of processed leaf, and paper wrapping, which is normally white, though other colors are occasionally available. Cigars are typically composed entirely of whole-leaf tobacco.

Rates of cigarette smoking vary widely, and have changed considerably over the course of history - since cigarettes were first widely used in the mid-20th century. While rates of smoking have over time leveled off or declined in the developed world, they continue to rise in developing nations.

Cigarettes like other tobacco products do carry serious health effects with them. Nicotine, the primary psychoactive chemical in tobacco and therefore cigarettes, is addictive. About half of cigarette smokers die of tobacco-related disease and lose on average 14 years of life. Cigarette use by pregnant women has also been shown to cause birth defects, including mental and physical disabilities


In the early times, people could buy cigarettes and smoke pretty much anywhere — even in hospitals! Ads for cigarettes were all over the place. Today we're more aware about how bad smoking is for our health. Smoking is restricted or banned in almost all public places and cigarette companies are no longer allowed to advertise on TV, radio, and in many magazines.

Almost everyone knows that smoking causes cancer, emphysema, and heart disease; that it can shorten your life by 10 years or more; and that the habit can cost a smoker thousands of dollars a year. So how come people are still lighting up? The answer, in a word, is addiction.

Once You Start, It's Hard to Stop.

Smoking is a hard habit to break because tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Like heroin or other addictive drugs, the body and mind quickly become so used to the nicotine in cigarettes that a person needs to have it just to feel normal.

People start smoking for a variety of different reasons. Some think it looks cool. Others start because their family members or friends smoke. Statistics show that about 9 out of 10 tobacco user’s start before they're 18 years old. Most adults who started smoking in their teens never expected to become addicted. That's why people say it's just so much easier to not start smoking at all.

How smoking affects your health?

There are no physical reasons to start smoking. The body doesn't need tobacco the way it needs food, water, sleep, and exercise. And many of the chemicals in cigarettes, like nicotine and cyanide, are actually poisons that can kill in high enough doses.

The body is smart. It goes on the defense when it's being poisoned. First-time smokers often feel pain or burning in the throat and lungs, and some people feel sick or even throw up the first few times they try tobacco.

The consequences of this poisoning happen gradually. Over the long term, smoking leads people to develop health problems like heart disease, stroke, emphysema, and many types of cancer -including lung, throat, stomach, and bladder cancer. People who smoke also have an increased risk of infections like bronchitis and pneumonia.
These diseases limit a person's ability to be normally active, and they can be fatal.

Smokers not only develop wrinkles and yellow teeth, they also lose bone density, which increases their risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes older people to become bent over and their bones to break more easily. Smokers also tend to be less active than nonsmokers because smoking affects lung power.

Smoking can also cause fertility problems and can impact sexual health in both men and women. Girls who are on the pill or other hormone-based methods of birth control increase their risk of serious health problems, such as heart attacks, if they smoke.

The consequences of smoking may seem very far off, but long-term health problems aren't the only hazard of smoking. Nicotine and the other toxins in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can affect a person's body quickly, which means that teen smokers experience many of these problems:

• Bad skin.

Because smoking restricts blood vessels, it can prevent oxygen and nutrients from getting to the skin - which is why smokers often appear pale and unhealthy. Studies have also linked smoking to an increased risk of getting a type of skin rash called psoriasis.

• Bad breath.

Cigarettes leave smokers with a condition called halitosis, or persistent bad breath.

• Bad-smelling clothes and hair.

The smell of stale smoke tends to linger - not just on people's clothing, but on their hair, furniture, and cars. And it's often hard to get the smell of smoke out.

• Reduced athletic performance.

People who smoke usually can't compete with nonsmoking peers because the physical effects of smoking impair sports performance.

• Greater risk of injury and slower healing time.

Smoking affects the body's ability to produce collagen, so common sports injuries, such as damage to tendons and ligaments will heal more slowly in smokers than nonsmokers.

• Increased risk of illness.

Studies show that smokers get more colds, flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia than nonsmokers. And people with certain health conditions, like asthma, become sicker if they smoke because teens who smoke as a way to manage weight often light up instead of eating, their bodies also lack the nutrients they need to grow, develop, and fight off illness properly.

• Immune Cells.

Smoking weakens the immune system by depressing antibodies and cells that are in the body to protect against foreign invaders. There is an association between smoking and the increased incidence of certain malignant diseases and respiratory infections, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). There is also a significant decrease in immune cells that normally help the body. But this process can be reversed if a smoker gives up cigarettes. Smokers who stop show increased levels of natural killer cell (NK) activity that targets cancerous cells in the body.

• Infections.

Many cancer-causing chemicals from cigarette smoke travel throughout a smoker's bloodstream to reach the organs of the body and damage the immune response. Carbon monoxide is carried through the body by smoke, interfering with oxygen levels. Less oxygen reaches the brain, heart, muscles and other organs. Lung function is reduced because of the narrowing of the lung airways and excess mucus in the lungs. Lung irritation and damage result from invading substances, leading to lung infection. Blood pressure and heart rate are affected negatively by smoking chemicals carried through the blood. The immune system does not work as well and smokers become more prone to infections, such as pneumonia and influenza. It takes smokers longer than nonsmokers to get over illnesses.

• Lung Tissue.

Smoking can cause the body's immune system to attack lung tissue and result in severe respiratory disorders, according to research at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. Health scientists examined mice to study the link between cigarette exposure, the immune system and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), a serious lung disease characterized by emphysema and severe inflammation of the lung tissue. After lung cells were damaged from cigarette smoke in the lab research, the cells signaled the immune system when the damaged cells needed to be destroyed. The research shows that smoking actually activates certain parts of the immune system, which works against the lungs and attacks the tissue; it was reported in the March 2009 issue of the "Journal of Clinical Investigation." The researchers found a strong correlation between cellular stress signals, activation of the immune system and development of diseases similar to COPD.


Researchers compared the results with tissue samples from humans who included nonsmokers, smokers with COPD and smokers who did not have COPD. They found that patients who had never smoked had no trace of the lung cells that triggered the immune system to attack lung tissue. Current and former smokers who developed the disease had evidence of those lung signals.

Physical Addiction

Being physically addicted means a person's body actually becomes dependent on a particular substance (even smoking is physically addictive). It also means building tolerance to that substance, so that a person needs a larger dose than ever before to get the same effects.

Someone who is physically addicted and stops using a substance like drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes may experience withdrawal symptoms. Common symptoms of withdrawal are diarrhea, shaking, and generally feeling awful.

Psychological Addiction

Psychological addiction happens when the cravings for a drug are psychological or emotional. People who are psychologically addicted feel overcome by the desire to have a drug. They may lie or steal to get it.

A person crosses the line between abuse and addiction when he or she is no longer trying the drug to have fun or get high, but has come to depend on it. His or her whole life centers on the need for the drug. An addicted person - whether it's a physical or psychological addiction or both - no longer feels like there is a choice in taking a substance.

Signs of Addiction

The most obvious sign of an addiction is the need to have a particular drug or substance. However, many other signs can suggest a possible addiction, such as changes in mood or weight loss or gain. (These also are signs of other conditions too, though, such as depression or eating disorders.

Signs that you or someone you know may have a cigarette addiction include:

Psychological signals:

• Use of drugs or alcohol as a way to forget problems or to relax.

• Withdrawal or keeping secrets from family and friends.

• Loss of interest in activities that used to be important.

• Problems with schoolwork, such as slipping grades or absences.

• Changes in friendships, such as hanging out only with friends who use drugs.

• Spending a lot of time figuring out how to get cigarette.

• Stealing or selling belongings to be able to afford cigarette.

• Failed attempts to stop taking cigarette or drinking.

• Anxiety, anger, or depression.

• Mood swings.

Physical signals:

• Changes in sleeping habits.

• Feeling shaky or sick when trying to stop.

• Needing to take more of the substance to get the same effect.

• Changes in eating habits, including weight loss or gain

Side effects of smoking

Dangers of Smoking with Nicotine:

One of the main dangers of smoking is due to Nicotine. Nicotine is found naturally in tobacco. It has no odor and no color. It is, however, both physically and psychologically addictive, and it causes those who use it to want to smoke one cigarette after another.

Nicotine enters the body as tiny droplets resting on particles of tar in cigarette smoke. Inhaled into the lungs, the drug passes quickly into the bloodstream, reaching the brain within about 10 seconds. In another 5 to 10 seconds the nicotine has spread to all parts of the body.

The nicotine raises both the heart rate and blood pressure. The smoker quickly feels more alert and relaxed. In less than 30 minutes, however, about half of the nicotine has left the bloodstream, and the smoker starts feeling less alert, more edgy.


So he or she reaches for another cigarette to get a new “hit” of nicotine. Over time, the smoker starts needing more cigarettes throughout the day to satisfy the craving.

Dangers of Smoking with Tar:

There are other dangers of smoking as well. The tar from tobacco smoke starts to accumulate on the bronchial tubes leading to the lungs. The hot smoke burns the tiny hair like projections (called cilia) that trap harmful particles before they enter the lungs.

Carbon Monoxide:

One more of the dangers of smoking are Carbon monoxide. Smoking also increases the level of carbon monoxide in the lungs. This poisonous gas is quickly absorbed into the blood, reducing its capacity to carry oxygen.

As a result, the smoker has to exert more physical effort to attain a given task than does a nonsmoker. The heart in particular must work harder, particularly during rigorous exercise. Increased levels of carbon monoxide in the blood can impair vision, perception of time, and coordination.

Oxides of nitrogen:

Animal experiments showed that nitrogen oxides lungs. It is believed that nitrogen oxides are some specific chemicals in tobacco that causes lung disease and efizem.

Hydrogen cyanide:

The lungs have some hairs (cilia) that help to “clean” lungs by removing the foreign substances. Hydrogen cyanide prevents the development process of clearing. The substances of cigarette smoke remains in the lungs.


Ammonia is a powerful chemical found in household products, it is used to preserve human bodies in the morgue, which is also harmful to the lungs.

How to quit smoking?

There are many different methods that have successfully helped people to quit smoking, including:

• Quitting smoking cold turkey.

• Systematically decreasing the number of cigarettes you smoke.

• Reducing your intake of nicotine gradually over time.

• Using nicotine replacement therapy or non-nicotine medications to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

• Utilizing nicotine support groups.

• Trying hypnosis, acupuncture, or counseling using cognitive behavioral techniques.

You may be successful with the first method you try. More likely, you’ll have to try a number of different methods or a combination of treatments to find the ones that work best for you.

Medication therapy

Smoking cessation medications can ease withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings, and are most effective when used as part of a comprehensive stop smoking program monitored by your physician. Talk to your doctor about your options and whether an anti-smoking medication is right for you. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved options are:

Nicotine Replacement Therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy involves "replacing" cigarettes with other nicotine substitutes, such as nicotine gum or a nicotine patch. It works by delivering small and steady doses of nicotine into the body to relieve some of the withdrawal symptoms without the tars and poisonous gases found in cigarettes. This type of treatment helps smokers focus on breaking their psychological addiction and makes it easier to concentrate on learning new behaviors and coping skills.

Non-Nicotine Medication

These medications help you stop smoking by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms without the use of nicotine. Medications such as Bupropion (Zyban or Wellbutrin) and Varenicline (Chantix) are intended for short-term use only.

Bupropion (Zyban or Wellbutrin) is a prescription anti-depressant in an extended-release form that reduces symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. It does not contain nicotine. This drug acts on chemicals in the brain that are related to nicotine craving. Bupropion works best if it is started a week or 2 weeks before you quit smoking. The usual dosage is one or two 150 mg tablets per day.

Varenicline (Chantix) is a newer prescription medicine developed to help people stop smoking. It works by interfering with nicotine receptors in the brain. This means it has 2 effects: it lessens the pleasurable effects a person gets from smoking, and it reduces the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Varenicline should be started a week before your Quit Day.

Non-medication therapies

There are several things you can do to stop smoking that don’t involve nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medications:


A popular option that has produced good results. Forget anything you may have seen from stage hypnotists, hypnosis works by getting you into a deeply relaxed state where you are open to suggestions that strengthen your resolve to quit smoking and increase your negative feelings toward cigarettes. Ask your doctor to recommend a qualified smoking cessation hypnotherapist in your area or refer to the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) for guidelines on selecting a qualified professional.


One of the oldest known medical techniques, acupuncture is believed to work by triggering the release of endorphins (natural pain relievers) that allow the body to relax. As a smoking cessation aid, acupuncture can be helpful in managing smoking withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor for a referral or search for a local practitioner at the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM).

Behavioral Therapy

Nicotine addiction is related to the habitual behaviors (the “rituals”) involved in smoking. Behavior therapy focuses on learning new coping skills and breaking those habits. The American Lung Association offers afree online smoking cessation program that focuses on behavioral change. To find a local behavioral therapist, check with your doctor or search at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT).

Motivational Therapies

Self-help books and websites can provide a number of ways to motivate you to quit smoking. One well known example is calculating the monetary savings. Some people have been able to find the motivation to quit just by calculating how much money they will save after they quit. It may be enough to pay for a summer vacation.


Filters that reduce tar and nicotine in cigarettes do not work. In fact, studies have shown that smokers who use filters tend to smoke more.

Smoking deterrents

Other methods have been used to help stop smoking, such as over-the-counter products that change the taste of tobacco, stop-smoking diets that curb nicotine cravings, and combinations of vitamins. At this time there is little scientific evidence that any of these work.