The Smokefree Health Harms, initiated by the Public Health England (PHE), will possibly encourage more smokers to quit smoking for good this 2014 by vividly showing the gruesome effects of tobacco in the brain and other vital bodily organs.
So how does smoking damage the brain?
Smoking contaminates the blood with toxic chemicals. The new ad shows that smoking greatly damages the brain, heart and lungs by creating a ‘toxic cycle of dirty blood’ which carries harmful chemicals like arsenic and cyanide that harm various organs in the body. This contaminated blood then reaches the brain, destroying healthy cells.
Smoking narrows arteries. Smoking causes blood clots, which put a heavy pressure on the arteries. This condition increases the risk of stroke. According to a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, smokers are twice as likely to die of a stroke, compared with non-smokers.
Smoking damages areas crucial to cognitive functioning. Several studies have shown a link between smoking and various memory problems like dementia. For instance, a 2012 study reported in Archives of General Psychiatry found that smoking increases the risk of dementia in men. Another study, published later this year in the journal Plos One suggests it has the same effect in women. According to the researchers, even though cognitive decline increases with age, smoking and other negative habits like excessive alcohol drinking are linked to accelerated decline. And because of the severe effects of smoking on cognitive function, there’s no surprise that it is also linked to low IQ. Several studies have found that smoking indeed lowers an individual’s IQ. This effect is attributed to the reduced supply of oxygen (necessary for normal brain function) and the increased amount of carbon monoxide in the brain.
Smoking destroys the ‘reward system’ in the brain. Smokers are more prone to depression and other mental health disorders because the nicotine in tobacco reduces the ‘feel-good’ receptors in the brain. The artificial stimulation of the reward system leads to long-term consequences on the smoker’s mental health.
Smoking is linked to brain shrinkage. The highly toxic compounds in cigarettes literally shrink the brain over time. One study found that in people with multiple sclerosis, smoking increase the risk of brain shrinkage and lesions.
Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer in England, said it is ‘extremely worrying’ that people are underestimating the health risks of smoking, despite the fact that it is the leading cause of premature deaths. She adds that one in two smokers (or half of the smoking population) die early due to the diseases related to their habit.
The brain is a major body organ that is highly critical to one’s health and survival. But as you can see, the effects of smoking on the brain are quire severe. Many smokers don’t realize the extent of damage smoking brings to their mental health, and before they know it, they have already developed serious health issues. Quitting smoking today is one of the best ways to promote brain health.