According to the American Heart Association, 24.8 million Americans smoke cigarettes, a habit that causes more than 440,000 of the country's 2.4 million deaths per year, or more than 18 percent of the country's annual deaths. The AHA cites cigarettes as the leading preventable cause of death in the country. Smoking cigarettes for a long period of time can cause heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, stomach cancer and many other health problems.
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The 4,000 chemicals contained in cigarettes drastically increase the risk of getting lung cancer. Sixty of the 4,000 chemicals have been documented to cause cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, cigarette smoking causes 87 percent of all lung cancer deaths in the United States. The longer you smoke and the more frequently you smoke, the greater your risk of getting cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking can cause coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. Smokers are two to four times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than non-smokers.
Cigarette smoking alone can cause cardiovascular disease, but combined with other health problems such as high blood pressure, lack of exercise and obesity, it can be detrimental to your chances of avoiding cardiovascular disease.
Because cigarettes are the leading cause of preventable heart attack, you will decrease your risk by quitting. However, damage done by long-term smoking cannot be erased.
In addition to causing cancer and heart problems, smoking cigarettes for a long time can make it hard to breathe, decrease energy and increase the effects of other health problems such as asthma, bronchitis or pneumonia. The CDC estimates that long-term adult smokers lose between 13.2 and 14.5 years of life due to smoking.
In addition to the internal diseases smoking can cause, it can also have a negative effect on your physical appearance. Smoking can speed up the aging process, causing premature wrinkles. Cigarettes inhibit the blood flow to your skin, preventing your skin from getting vital nutrients to keep it looking healthy. Though the effects on skin may be slow to appear, wrinkles can form after as little as 10 years of smoking.
Despite smoking's long-term damage, even people who have smoked their whole lives can greatly improve their chances of longer, healthier lives by quitting. There are many ways to quit, but the first step is to make the decision to stop smoking, says the American Heart Association.