The Effects of Smoking on the Brain

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The public have heard and read much about how smoking is bad for the health, especially on the lungs. You have seen side-by-side pictures of the lungs of a smoker and a non-smoker, and truly, the image can make someone ditch the bad habit in an instant since it is supported by a fact that you lose about eleven minutes of your life for every cigarette smoked. However, do you have any knowledge of how smoking can affect your brain?

Indeed, the effects of smoking on brain are barely discussed so here are a simple rundown of how the nervous system’s function is affected by every puff.

Cigarette Smoking

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Increased Chances of a Stroke-

This happens in two ways. Firstly, smoking promotes the formation of plaques that clot the arteries. Nicotine also makes the blood become thicker. Both conditions hinder the proper circulation of oxygenated blood, on which the brain depends upon for proper function. When the arteries become completely blocked, then a stroke will occur.

Inflammation of the Brain-

This is due to a compound found in cigarettes called nicotine-derived nitrosamine ketone

Or NNK. Aside from being a carcinogen, NNK also promotes the increase in levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, proteins, and effectors in the brain. NNK is also known to stimulate the production of microglial cells, which attacks and harms healthy nerve cells.


Smoking promotes the production of the hormone called dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the pleasure center of the brain. Therefore, the more you smoke, the more pleasure you feel, and that is what drives occasional smokers to become chain-smokers. Eventually, the brain system will get used to functioning under this state and the user will become addicted. The reward and pleasure receptors in the brain will cease to function normally, thus pushing the smoker to crave for more in order to feel good.

Reduced IQ-

According to studies, smokers have lower capacity to deal with analytical problems. The most probable cause is the reduced amount of oxygen in the brain, as described above due to the thickening of the blood and formation of plaques in the arteries.

Reduced Sex Drive-

The low oxygen levels in the brain can also cause a person to feel tired and fatigued. This, in itself, already affects a person’s drive to participate in a sexual act. Further, since nicotine addiction has also affected the feel good receptors of the brain, it will be less likely for someone to feel satisfaction during sex.

Induces Stress-

Most smokers will say that they smoke to relieve themselves from stress. The truth is that calm feeling only lasts for thirty minutes, more or less. The backlash will be worse, which of course will drive a person to smoke again to get that calm feeling back, thus the cycle continues.

Increased Free Radicals-

It is a common fact that smoking is one major cause of the increase in free radicals in the environment, along with UV rays and other forms of pollution. The body does not have enough antioxidant to repair the damaged cells so the free radicals will continue to accumulate, especially in the brain.

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These are just some of the effects of smoking on brain. There are also studies that have shown smoking as the cause of brain shrinkage and reduced motor functions. All of these are more than enough reasons for someone to quit smoking now.

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  • Too many smokers have inadequate intakes of antioxidants. Smokers are reported to consume lower quantities of antioxidant nutrients than nonsmokers. Antioxidant nutrients have protective roles with regard to cancer, heart disease, cataract formation, cognitive (mind) dysfunction, and other diseases. Researchers believe there is a balance between antioxidant protectors and components that promote oxidation in the body. This balance seems to be related to health or disease. Some components of cigarette smoke promote oxidation that provides high levels of oxidant stress. Free radicals, which also promote oxidation, are derived from tobacco.

  • For instance, cigarette smokers have lower vitamin C (natural antioxidant) intakes and plasma vitamin C levels than nonsmokers. The incidence of cancer, heart disease, and cataracts is lower in populations that have high intakes of fruits or leafy green vegetables, all replete with vitamin C. Smokers who ate foods containing more than 200 mg vitamin C daily had serum vitamin C levels equivalent to those of nonsmokers who consumed 60 mg or more of the vitamin, according to a recent national survey.

  • Johne, so do you think people who wants to quit should use e-cig? Does the reduce amount of nicotine in the e-cig can cause to all the side effect you have mention like: Sex drive, strees, etc? What do you think about vaporization instead?

  • Smoking is very much dangerous not only for our brain but also for whole body. It can brutally damage our lungs and other body parts that is very difficult to repair. Nicotine present in it work as a slow poison that become a reason for once mortality.

  • Your neocortex (the weird looking bit on the outside of your brain) is only about as thick as a dinner napkin and is made up of 6 layers.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge about brain 🙂

  • Any one of those points by themselves would be reason enough for me to quit (if I smoked). I love information and I love learning to see how I can improve my life – and unless one has that passion for “knowledge” and “self improvement”, it will be hard to accept simple facts (your points are a perfect example) about smoking.

  • Hi, very well written thanks for sharing this article. You explain nice knowledge about the effects of smoking. You tell a truth by this article but some one else smoking they know the effects of smoking but they don’t left smoking.