One of the insidious things about smoking cigarettes is that it takes a long time for the serious health effects to be noticed by the smoker even though damage occurs with each cigarette smoked. By the time the smoker notices health issues, serious health damage has occurred; damage that could have been avoided if they had stopped smoking years earlier.
Fortunately, there are obvious external effects of smoking cigarettes that warn the smoker years in advance of the damage that is happening to them internally. The problem is the smoker doesn’t realize that cigarettes are causing these external changes. This article will alert the smoker to an external effect of smoking: accelerated aging. This is something the smoker can see every time they look in the mirror. The change the smoker sees on the outside is a reflection of what is going on inside their body!
The False Sense of Security with Smoking
When you look at young smokers, you see people that don’t believe smoking cigarettes is a serious health threat to themselves. These young smokers think that because they go to the gym, play sports and go about their daily routine without any obvious negative effects, they are somehow spared the health consequences of smoking. Sadly this isn’t so.
It usually takes about 30 plus years of smoking to develop the really serious diseases that are associated with smoking cigarettes. For a 25 year old that has been smoking for 10 years, twenty years in the future is a long time.
Yet, that 10 years of smoking has already taken its toll. If the young smoker stopped ignoring the changes that cigarettes produce in their body, they would see that they are affected. If they realized what they were looking at, they would see the effects of cigarette smoking every time they looked in the mirror!
Do You Look Older than Your Years?
It’s ironic that one of the reasons a 12-15 year old starts smoking is to look older. When they start smoking at this early age, they don’t realize that smoking cigarettes will actually make them look older and BE older because of accelerated aging!
As a student of history and a photographer, I have always been fascinated by images from the past. I am grateful to all the photographers before me that took the time to preserve memories of day to day places and people that no longer exist; the everyday life that most of us take for granted. This preservation allows us to visually experience another time.
One of the things I have noticed when studying images from the 1920’s through the 1970’s is that the people look really old. When you look at a picture of a man and guess 55 years of age, it’s shocking to find that person is only 23 years old!
What accounts for this great difference in appearance versus age? Cigarette smoking! Research shows it accelerates aging. The images from the era when 44% of the population smoked cigarettes clearly shows this phenomena.
Smoking Cigarettes Causes Accelerated Aging
Our skin is the canvas that displays the picture of our health status. Smoking makes a person look much older. The longer a person smokes, the faster they show signs of aging. Research finds that not only does smoking contribute to premature facial wrinkles but also wrinkling of skin in other areas such as the inner arm. Look at your arms smoking ladies!
Another effect smoking has on the skin is developing psoriasis, a very unsightly and unpleasant skin ailment. The higher the number of cigarettes smoked over a pack per day, the greater the risk of developing this miserable skin condition, e.g. itching and burning. You can always tell a smoker, other than by the odor which is another article, because their skin has an unhealthy tone to it as well as wrinkles.
If you want to see a clear example of the aging effects of smoking, look at pictures of famous people who smoked. One of the clearest examples is President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was noted for his cigarette holder and there are numerous photographs of him smoking! He died of a stroke, a health condition associated with long term smoking, in 1945 at the age of 63. Look at the pictures of him in the last few years of his life. Rather than 63, he looks more like 93.
You can find many, many other examples in old photographs from the era when 44% of the population smoked. Look at the picture, guess the age and then see how old the person really was when the photograph was taken. Smoking does age you!
Is it Male Pattern Baldness or Cigarettes?
Even your hair dresser won’t know for sure! People are surprised to find that smoking affects their hair but research shows it does in several ways.
As a smoker of 10 or more years, do you find some gray hair beginning to show up? Most smokers do because research has shown that smokers are three to six times more likely to go prematurely gray than non-smokers. Another effect on the hair is that men who smoke are twice as likely to become bald as men who don’t smoke. Does this just apply to men? Or is this a reason why older women who smoke have thinning hair?
Although the smoker can ignore their skin changes because it’s gradual, they cannot ignore gray hair. However, the smoker just attributes this to getting older. They don’t realize that it’s not normal for people to start getting gray hair in their 20’s and 30’s. This is not a sign of getting older, it’s a sign of smoking!
How Does Smoking Affect Your Mouth?
Obviously, that harsh, polluted cigarette smoke passes into the lungs through the mouth. Smoking can’t help but stain your teeth which also adds to the appearance of being older than you are.
Of course, there is the awful “cigarette” breath as well. In addition to the bad breath, smoking also puts you at great risk for all sorts of dental problems, including oral cancer and gum disease.
Teeth and gum problems are another symptom associated with old age. Yet, this is happening to smokers early in their life.
Does Smoking Really Shorten Your Life?
In a word, YES! In addition to making the smoker look older, research shows that the smoker actually IS older.
A report in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that men who never smoked lived an average of 10 years longer than their peers who smoked. YES, smoking really does shorten your life! Also, the non-smokers enjoyed a higher quality of life throughout those extra years.
You do not have to wait for 30 plus years to see the impact that cigarettes are having on your body. If you’ve smoked for 10 years or more, you can look in the mirror and see the effects today!
Facial wrinkles, gray hair and even baldness at a young age are the outwards signs of the internal damage caused by cigarettes. If you think the external body changes are simply the result of aging, you need to think again. These outward signs are more than cosmetic issues. They are a visible warning alerting you to the internal damage that smoking cigarettes is causing to your body. The sooner cigarettes are removed from your life, the sooner your body can begin to repair itself. Don’t wait until it’s too late, pay attention to these important signs today!
(c) Copyright 2009, R. Michael Stone