Smoking can cause long-term negative effects on the body, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Whether smoked or chewed, tobacco is dangerous to your health. Tobacco products contain unsafe substances, from acetone and tar to nicotine and carbon monoxide. The inhaled substances can affect your lungs and the other organs in your body.

Smoking can lead to ongoing complications and long-term effects on your body systems. While smoking can increase your risk of certain health conditions over years, like glaucoma, cancer, and issues with blood clotting, some of the bodily effects happen immediately.

But quitting smoking can reverse many of these effects on your body.

Learn more about the symptoms and overall effects of smoking on the body below.

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Medical Infographic by Bailey Mariner

Tobacco smoke is incredibly harmful to your health. There’s no safe way to smoke. Replacing your cigarette with a cigar, pipe, e-cigarette, or hookah won’t help you avoid the health risks.

According to the American Lung Association, cigarettes contain about 600 ingredients. Many of these ingredients are also in cigars and hookahs. When they burn, they generate more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. At least 69 of them are carcinogenic, or known to cause cancer.

In the United States, the mortality rate for smokers is three times that of people who never smoked. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note that smoking is the most common preventable cause of death in the United States.

While not all the effects of smoking are immediate, the complications and damage can last for years. The good news is that quitting smoking can reduce many risk factors for the conditions and diseases below.

Smoking can harm the organs in your body and negatively impact your overall health.

Smoking can increase inflammation throughout your body and negatively affect your immune system. This may make you more susceptible to infection.

Smoking is an environmental risk factor for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, though researchers do not yet understand the mechanism behind the connection.

A well-studied link also exists between smoking and many types of cancer. Smoking can increase your risk of developing cancer almost anywhere in your body. This includes the following cancer types:

  • bladder cancer
  • acute myeloid leukemia
  • cervical cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • esophageal cancer
  • kidney and uterine cancer
  • laryngeal cancer
  • liver cancer
  • oropharyngeal cancer (which can include parts of your throat, tongue, tonsils, and soft palate)
  • pancreatic cancer
  • stomach or gastric cancer
  • tracheal, bronchial, and lung cancer

If you quit smoking, the risk of developing most of these types of cancers decreases in about 10 to 20 years, depending on the type of cancer. However, your risk will still be higher than that of people who have never smoked.

One of the ingredients in tobacco is the mood-altering drug nicotine. Nicotine is habit-forming and highly addictive. It is one reason why people find it so difficult to quit smoking.

Nicotine reaches your brain in seconds and can energize you for a while. But as the effect wears off, you may feel tired and crave more. Physical withdrawal from nicotine can impair your ability to think and make you feel negative emotions. These may include:

  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • depression

Withdrawal can also cause headaches and trouble sleeping.


Smoking long-term can affect your vision and optic nerve. It may lead you to develop certain conditions that affect the eyes. These can include:

  • glaucoma, in which the pressure in the eye increases, which puts pressure on the optic nerve causing damage and loss of sight
  • cataracts, which cause cloudy vision
  • age-related macular degeneration, which causes damage to a spot in the center of your retina and causes loss of your central vision

Smoking damages the airways, air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs, and cilia, which are tiny hair-like structures that prevent dirt and mucus from entering your lungs.

Lung damage

Smoking causes lung damage and tissue loss that never comes back.

Damage to the respiratory system can also make you more susceptible to certain infections that affect the lungs, like tuberculosis and pneumonia, and increase the possibility of death from those illnesses.

Smoking can cause you to develop a chronic cough. It can also worsen asthma attacks, if you have asthma.

Cancer risk

Lung damage from smoking can cause lung disease or lung cancer. Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, and people who smoke are 20 times more likely than nonsmokers to be diagnosed with lung cancer.

Chronic lung conditions

People who smoke are at higher risk for chronic nonreversible lung conditions such as:

Withdrawal from tobacco products can cause temporary congestion and respiratory discomfort as your lungs and airways begin to heal. Increased mucus production right after quitting smoking may be a positive sign that your respiratory system is recovering.

In infants, children, and teens

Babies may be born with underdeveloped lungs if the pregnant person smokes during pregnancy.

Children whose parents or caregivers smoke cigarettes may also experience certain health conditions at a higher rate than children whose caregivers do not smoke. These can include:

Teens who smoke can end up with lungs that are smaller and weaker than the lungs of teens who don’t smoke.

Nicotine affects blood flow to the genital areas of both men and women.

Fertility problems

Smoking may also contribute to fertility issues and lower sex hormone levels in males and females, leading to decreased sexual desire.

In people with vaginas

For people with vaginas, it can result in sexual dissatisfaction by decreasing lubrication and the ability to reach orgasm. Menopause also may occur earlier in smokers than in nonsmokers.

Smoking influences hormone production and can make it harder for people with vaginas to become pregnant. It can also increase the risk of:

  • early delivery
  • low birth weight
  • stillbirth
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • ectopic pregnancy
  • cleft palate and lip in infants

In people with penises

For people with penises, smoking can decrease sexual performance.

Smoking can negatively affect the function of blood vessels, which may restrict the blood flow needed to achieve an erection in people with penises. This may result in erectile dysfunction (ED). ED can also lead to fertility problems.

It can also damage the DNA in sperm, making it difficult to conceive and increasing the risk of miscarriage and certain birth defects.

According to the CDC, 1 in 4 deaths in the U.S. result from cardiovascular disease caused by cigarette smoking.

Smoking can damage the cardiovascular system, including your:

  • heart
  • arteries
  • blood vessels

Nicotine causes blood vessels to tighten, which restricts the flow of blood. Smoking also raises blood pressure, weakens blood vessel walls, and increases your risk of blood clots.

These factors raise your risk for cardiovascular disease, including:

You’re also at an increased risk of worsening heart disease if you’ve already had:

Secondhand smoke

Smoking impacts your cardiovascular health and also affects the health of those around you who don’t smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke carries the same risk to a nonsmoker as someone who does smoke. Risks can include:

Smoking cigarettes can affect your skin, hair, and nails.


Substances in tobacco smoke can change the structure of your skin. This may contribute to:

  • premature skin damage associated with aging
  • wrinkles
  • delayed wound healing
  • developing hidradenitis suppurativa, a skin condition that causes painful boils
  • developing psoriasis, or triggering more severe psoriasis
  • developing certain types of skin cancer

Smoking can increase the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on the lips.


There’s also a link between smoking and androgenic alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss in males. Smoking causes hair loss due to:


It may also affect your fingernails and toenails and increase the likelihood of fungal nail infections.

Cigarette smoking can affect the digestive system in multiple ways.

Cancer risk

Smoking increases the risk of cancer in the organs of the digestive system. This can include cancer of the:

  • mouth
  • throat
  • larynx
  • esophagus
  • stomach
  • pancreas
  • colon and rectum

Even people who “smoke but don’t inhale” face an increased risk of mouth cancer.

Type 2 diabetes

Smoking also has an effect on insulin, making it more likely that you’ll develop insulin resistance. People who smoke cigarettes have a 30% to 40% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and its complications.

Type 2 diabetes tends to develop faster in people who smoke than people who do not smoke, as it may be harder to control.

Periodontal disease

Smoking can raise your risk for periodontal disease or disease affecting the gums. This happens because smoking causes inflammation around the teeth and increases your risk for bacterial infections. The gums may become swollen and bleed (gingivitis) and eventually begin to pull away from the teeth (periodontitis).

Smoking can negatively impact your bone health by reducing your bone density and contributing to bone loss.

Tobacco use is linked to developing conditions like osteoporosis or experiencing bone fractures. Smoking can also have a negative impact on bone healing if you experience a fracture.

In females, smoking may cause menopause to come earlier. Menopause speeds up bone loss. Combined with smoking, it may accelerate these effects, leading to osteoporosis.

Smoking also affects the health of your teeth and may cause tooth decay and loss.

Smoking cigarettes increases your risk for health conditions that can affect the whole body. Smoking can cause cancer in many of the body’s organs. It can also reduce fertility, increase the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, and contribute to bone loss.

But quitting smoking reduces many of these risks. It also has both short and long-term benefits. Since smoking affects every body system, finding a way to quit can help you live a longer and healthier life.

Smoking cessation programs may help. Doctors may also recommend prescription and nonprescription medications to help you quit.

You can turn to our smoking cessation resource center, which has tips for how to stop smoking, information on smoking cessation therapies, and more.