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This post is the first in a series about how our lifestyle habits are creating a generation of young Indians who are aging faster than they should. Written by nutritionist and dietician Vaishali Mathuria, the series will portray the cold, hard truth about smoking, alcohol, junk food, stress sedentary living and more.

1. How exactly does smoking damage my health?

We’ve all read and heard that smoking directly affects the lungs, causing coughs, wheezing, asthma and other chronic obstructive diseases. In the long run, its effects can be fatal like lung cancer.

But this is how smoking a cigarette actually affects your body. With every puff you take, the toxins from the cigarette smoke enter your bloodstream, thickening the blood and making it more susceptible to clots. Clots cause the narrowing of arteries, thereby reducing the supply of oxygen to all organs in the body. Nicotine intake increases your blood pressure, forcing your heart to work harder. In this way, smoking affects all our vital organs. Over time, nicotine and tar also negatively affect your skin, mouth, throat and sex organs.

2. Aren’t those long-term effects? Are there any immediate effects of smoking?

Most smokers hold a false belief that they have their smoking under control and can quit anytime, thus avoiding the long-term damages of smoking.

While the immediate effect of smoking may not always produce noticeable symptoms, the hard truth is that damage to the body begins from the first cigarette itself. Sometimes the damages are irreversible and may produce serious medical conditions.

Generally, the visible immediate effects are:

Persistent cough
Decreased physical performance
Heartburn and acid reflux
Halitosis (bad breath)
Yellowing of teeth and periodontal diseases
Increased heart rate
Increased stress levels

3. I only smoke Lights. They’re not as harmful as regular cigarettes, right?

Lights are cigarettes that are marketed as having a lighter, less pronounced flavour with lower levels of tar, nicotine or other chemicals in them. But this is just smart marketing gimmickry. It has been scientifically proven that a low-tar, low-nicotine cigarette does not reduce the health risks of smoking or lower the smoker’s exposure to carcinogens.

4. I roll my own cigarettes so that I don’t consume harmful chemicals in manufactured cigarettes. Am I still equally at risk?

Yes, rolled cigarettes are equally harmful. People often think that smoking rolled cigarettes is a healthier smoking choice since they don’t contain thousands of chemical compounds found in regular cigarettes. But make no mistake – rolled cigarettes can be just as harmful because they lack filters. This means that the smoker is inhaling more tar than a regular cigarette smoker!

5. I only smoke beedis. They’re not as harmful as cigarettes, right?

Beedis are nothing but tobacco flakes wrapped tightly in a leaf and tied up with a string on one end. Beedis carry a greater risk of oral cancer because they deliver more nicotine , carbon monoxide and tar compared to cigarettes.

6. I don’t smoke but my friends do. How harmful is second-hand smoke?

Moving around or spending time in the company of people who smoke makes you a passive smoker. Passive smoke is referred to as ‘environmental tobacco smoke’ and is a combination of smoke exhaled by a smoker PLUS the smokethat comes from the end of burning cigarette that’s called side-stream smoke. It’s important to note that side-stream smoke that a passive smoker inhales may be more toxic than main-stream smoke that a smoker inhales!

To contact Vaishali Mathuria with questions, write to

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