An estimated 4,500-5,000 New Zealanders die from smoking related illness each year, making tobacco our leading cause of preventable death.
If you smoke, your body is constantly working to try and repair the damage done by regularly inhaling more than 4000 toxic chemicals. As well as tar, there is also the gas carbon monoxide (found in car exhaust fumes), ammonia (found in floor cleaner) and arsenic (found in rat poison).
Here's how smoking affects your body:
Cancer At least 69 of the chemicals in tobacco smoke are known to cause cancer. Cancers caused by tobacco include of the lung, mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, cervix and bone marrow (myeloid leukaemia).
Your lungs Toxic gases damage cilia, the tiny hairs that are part of your lung cleaning system. Tar, the solid particles in tobacco smoke, coats your lungs like soot in a chimney. Smoke irritates your lungs, so they increase the amount of mucus they make. Over time, your small airways swell up and let less air into your lungs.
Your blood Many chemicals from tobacco smoke pass through your lungs into your bloodstream. They go everywhere your blood flows. Carbon monoxide robs your muscles, brain and body of oxygen. Every cigarette you smoke temporarily increases your heart rate and blood pressure, and narrows the small blood vessels under your skin. It slows your blood flow, reducing oxygen to your feet and hands. Your fingers and toes become colder.
Your heart and brain Chemicals from smoke make your blood cells and blood vessel walls sticky, allowing dangerous fatty deposits to build up. This slowly blocks your blood vessels, starving your tissues of oxygen. Blocked blood vessels in your heart or brain can disable or kill.
All cigarettes are toxic It doesn't help if you smoke weaker tasting cigarettes such as those labelled 'fine', 'smooth' or 'refined'. These cigarettes have holes in the filter that let in air to dilute the smoke. But you still end up inhaling the same amount of chemicals as you would from stronger tasting cigarettes. So you do the same amount of damage.
Remember, you don't have to quit smoking alone. We're here to support you with a range of free services. Don't give up, Quit.