Carbon monoxide, the main poisonous gas in car exhaust fumes and tobacco smoke, binds to blood much more readily than oxygen, cutting the oxygen-carrying power of heavy tobacco user’s blood by as much as 15%. As a result, tobacco users’ bones lose density, fracture more easily and take up to 80% longer to heal. Tobacco users may also be more susceptible to back problems: one study shows that industrial workers who use tobacco are five times as likely to experience back pain after an injury.
One out of three deaths in the world is due to cardiovascular diseases. Tobacco use is one of the biggest risk factors for developing cardiovascular diseases. These diseases kill more than a million people a year in developing countries. Tobacco-related cardiovascular diseases kill more than 600 000 people each year in developed countries. Tobacco use makes the heart beat faster, raises blood pressure and increases the risk of hypertension and clogged arteries and eventually causes heart attacks and strokes.
Tobacco use reduces resistance to the bacteria that cause stomach ulcers. It also impairs the stomach’s ability to neutralize acid after a meal, leaving the acid to eat away the stomach lining. Tobacco users’ ulcers are harder to treat and more likely to recur.