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Skin and hair are exposed to various environmental noxious agents, including tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke consists of thousands of substances that damage the skin, and nicotine itself is harmful.

Beyond its known links to cancer, lung and heart disease, smoking is associated with premature skin ageing, delayed wound healing, and increased infections, as well as a number of skin disorders, particularly psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa and cutaneous lupus erythematosus. There is a general observation that smokers tend to be more severely affected than non-smokers by the majority of inflammatory skin diseases — even acne —and various conditions are often more difficult to treat effectively in smokers.

Tobacco smoke causes oxidative stress so that insufficient oxygen is supplied to the skin resulting in tissue ischaemia and blood vessel occlusion. It reduces innate and host immune responses, and induces metallo-proteinase MMP-1, an enzyme that specifically degrades collagen.

Nicotine replacement is safer for the skin than smoking, although nicotine itself induces vasoconstriction, inhibits inflammation, delays wound healing and accelerates skin ageing.

Smoking and ageing skin

Tobacco smoking has unpleasant temporary cutaneous and mucosal effects:

Temporary yellowing of fingers and fingernails
Discoloured teeth
Black hairy tongue.
Longer term, the gaunt skin of a 40-year-old heavy smoker resembles that of non-smoking 70-year-old:

Side Effects of Smoking Cigarettes for Ladies

Facial wrinkles and furrows (eg, crows’ feet at lateral canthus, vertical ear crease, smoker’s lines around lips)
Baggy eyelids and slack jawline
Uneven skin colouring: greyish, yellow with prominent blood vessels (telangiectasia)
Dry, coarse skin.

Smoking and infections

Smoking is associated with a greater likelihood or severity of:

Bacterial wound infections, most often caused by Staphylococccus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes
Candida albicans infection, particularly in the mouth
Viral infections, especially human papillomavirus (HPV), including genital warts.
If you have genital warts and you smoke, you have a greater chance of developing wart-virus associated cancers, including cervical cancer, vulval intraepitheial cancer, vulval cancer or penile intraepithelial cancer.

Smoking during pregnancy

Smoking during pregnancy carries significant risks for you and your baby, even if you only smoke one cigarette a day. Smoking can increase your baby’s risk of birth defects, preterm birth, low birth weight, and SIDS. Smoking during pregnancy can also cause pregnancy complications, including abnormal bleeding, miscarriage, and stillbirth. There’s no safe amount of cigarette smoke during pregnancy, so the sooner you quit the better. Get support from friends, family, and your healthcare provider, seek smoking cessation counseling, find ways to handle your triggers, and reward yourself for your progress

Risks of smoking during pregnancy

The risks of smoking during pregnancy include serious problems for you and your baby.

Smoking risks for you

In addition to the usual dangers of smoking (increased risk of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, lung disease, and other smoking-related illness), smoking during pregnancy also increases your chances of:

Side Effects of Smoking Cigarettes

Abnormal (and potentially catastrophic) bleeding during pregnancy and delivery due to placental problems, such as placental abruption and placenta previa.
Ectopic pregnancy.
Preterm premature rupture of membranes (PROM).
Miscarriage. Tobacco smoke can keep your developing baby from getting enough oxygen.
Stillbirth. Smoking more than doubles the risk of stillbirth.
Smoking also hurts your chances of getting pregnant. Because of its effects on estrogen and other hormones, smoking lowers a woman’s chance of conceiving during any particular cycle by about 40 percent. In men, smoking can damage sperm and contribute to impotence.

Smoking risks for your baby

Tobacco smoke contains chemicals that can harm babies before and after birth. Nicotine and carbon monoxide – two of the most dangerous compounds in cigarette smoke – work together to reduce your baby’s supply of oxygen.

Nicotine chokes off oxygen by narrowing blood vessels throughout your body, including the ones in the umbilical cord. It’s a little like forcing your baby to breathe through a narrow straw. To make matters worse, the red blood cells that carry oxygen start to pick up molecules of carbon monoxide instead.

What happens if you smoke in early pregnancy?

Smoking in early pregnancy deprives your developing baby of the oxygen they need to grow and develop – something babies do a lot of early in pregnancy.

Even smoking prior to conception can contribute to serious birth defects. In one long-term study, a mom’s smoking before pregnancy was associated with a 40 percent increase in gastroschisis, where the infant’s intestines protrude through a defect in the abdominal wall.

An expecting dad’s smoking prior to conception can also be harmful to a baby. One study found that a dad’s smoking increased the baby’s risk of birth defects including abnormalities of the limbs, heart defects, and neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Effects on health and well-being

The short-term effects of smoking include:

  • Bad breath
  • Fatigue and a decrease in energy
  • Reduction in the senses of taste and smell
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Problems affecting the heart and blood vessels
  • Respiratory or lung problems, such as asthma or excessive coughing
  • Certain types of cancers, including lung cancer
  • Fertility problems
  • In women: menstrual problems
  • In men: erectile problems

People at Risk

Everyone is at risk of being affected by smoking or second-hand smoke. However, some people are more likely to be affected by second-hand smoke. They include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Babies and children
  • Seniors
  • People with heart or respiratory problems
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