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Surprising ways smoking affects your body (and your family’s bodies too)

Written by Alexis Dobranowski

About 4.2 million Canadians smoke, and those who do smoke an average of 13.9 cigarettes per day. While the rate in Canada has fallen in the last few years, that’s still a lot of smoking and it still has a huge impact on the health of Canadians. Around the world, about 1.1 billion people smoke.

It’s well researched and documented that smoking cigarettes can have a bad impact on your health.

Bonnie Bristow, radiation therapist, says smoking can have much more of an affect on the body and its functions than people may realize.

“Patients and their families are sometimes surprised to hear about the ways cigarettes can affect their bodies,” she said.

Here are some of the more surprising facts:

Smoking hurts your eyes.

Smoking cigarettes doubles the risk of changes in the lens of your eye, resulting in cataracts, Bonnie says. It triples the risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness over 65 years old. And it also increases the risk of glaucoma, another leading risk of blindness.

Smoking slows down healing.

“Oxygen is the basis for wound healing and it all begins at the cellular level,” Bonnie says. “Smoking deprives the body of the much-needed oxygen required to repair and build cells.” If you have a surgery coming up, it’s a great time to consider quitting smoking.

Smoking affects your Zzzzzzzs.

Nicotine is a stimulant. That means, while many people think it calms them down, it actually temporarily increases energy, your heart rate and breathing, and your blood pressure. Cigarette smokers can easily develop insomnia (the inability to fall or stay asleep) if they smoke close to bedtime.

“Smokers often feel more restless in the morning after having difficulty falling asleep,” Bonnie says. “The nicotine changes your natural circadian rhythm and increases your risk of sleep apnea.” Sleep apnea is a disorder where your breathing pauses and starts when you are asleep.

Smoking affects your senses, your skin and more.

Smoking dulls the sense of taste and smell. It also is one of the main causes of premature aging of the face because of the biochemical changes in the body that speed the aging process. If you smoke, you may be more susceptible to seasonal flus and colds and you have an increased risk of diabetes.

Smoking harms other peoples’ bodies: your spouse, kids and friends.

Bonnie reminds us that exposure to second-hand smoke causes more frequent and serious asthma attacks, respiratory infections and ear infections in kids. Rates of tooth decay are doubled in kids exposed to second hand smoke. Adults in contact with second-hand smoke have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.

If you need help to quit smoking, check out for more resources or talk to your family doctor who can point you in the right direction. Here are some tips from a Sunnybrook social worker.


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Surprising ways smoking affects your body
– delays healing
– hurts your eyes
– affects your sleep
– ages your skin

About the author

Alexis Dobranowski

Alexis Dobranowski is a Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.