With the abundance of anti-smoking campaigns and access to information, it’s a well-known fact that smoking is bad for your health. Despite this, an astounding 480,000 people in the United States still die from illnesses related to tobacco use, which kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns and illegal drugs combined. Below is a list of health concerns related to smoking tobacco.
Increased Risk of Disease
Smoking accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States, including about 80% of all lung cancer deaths. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, and is one of the hardest cancers to treat. Smoking not only damages the lungs, but can also cause COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, and damage to the reproductive system.
Tobacco smoke damages the heart and blood vessels of the cardiovascular system, thus increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack. Smoking causes arteriole constriction, hardening of the vessel walls and even blood vessel death. This is coupled with the fact that smoking affects your blood hemoglobin’s ability to transport oxygen throughout the body. This increase in workload for your heart translates into an increased resting and exercising heart rate. The concentrations of tar and byproducts of cigarette smoke coat the lungs, causing them to lose elasticity and become more ridged. This means it takes more strength from your respiratory muscles to inhale and exhale. Essentially, your heart and lungs will have to work harder to maintain a specific work capacity.
Effects on Aerobic Capacity
Because of your bodies inability to efficiently diffuse and transport oxygen, your performance in the gym will be impacted both in your cardiovascular exercise efforts. A lack of oxygen reaching the muscles during aerobic bouts of exercise create increased rates of muscle fatigue, so the ability to perform longer bouts of endurance exercise will be diminished.
Effects on Strength Training
Smoking causes vasoconstriction of blood vessels therefore the total amount of arterial blood flow as well as venous return of blood to the heart will be altered. This means that during bouts of strength training, decreased oxygenated blood will reach the muscle to clear out metabolic byproducts such as lactic acid in the working muscles. The increased concentration in metabolic byproducts will inhibit performance so that less overall volume is able to be used during strength training. Because overall volume is so important to strength and muscular hypertrophy, a decreased ability to progressively increase volume will hinder performance and muscle gain in the gym.
Smoking can create premature aging and damage to the skin in as short as a few years of smoking. A recent study has revealed that twins who smoke show more signs of premature facial aging compared with their identical twins who are non-smokers or smoked at least 5 years less. Smokers demonstrated more sagging of the upper eyelids and more bags of the lower eyelids and under the eyes. They also had higher scores for facial wrinkles, specifically wrinkling of the upper and lower lips, sagging jowls (lower part of the cheek), and more pronounced lines between the nose and mouth.
Smoking and health simply do not belong together. Not only will smoking put you at significant long-term risk of acquiring life threatening diseases, but it will also acutely impact your physical fitness and performance because of its diminishing effects on the cardiovascular system.
References: Smoking, exercise, and physical fitness. – PubMed – NCBI  Plastic surgery and smoking: a prospective analysis of incidence, compliance, and complications. – PubMed – NCBI