Smoking affects DNA methylation
Tobacco consumption, which causes 8 million deaths worldwide, is the leading preventable cause of diseases in the US. Lung cancer is the third most prevalent cancer; there are approximately 236,740 cases yearly; 90% of these cases are caused by smoking. It is also worth noting that smoking can affect the airways and cause chronic bronchitis or a lung infection.
But smoking affects the whole body, not just the respiratory system. The FDA shares that the toxic mix of chemicals in cigarette smoke contaminates the blood that goes to your whole body. In turn, the contaminated blood has the potential to damage organs and disrupt bodily functions, possibly leading to serious non-respiratory ailments like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and strokes.
These diseases attest that the effects of smoking can be extremely severe. However, modern science shows that the consequences of smoking run deeper than diseases—DNA too can be affected. So, keep reading to learn how smoking affects DNA and what you can do to mitigate the damage.
How smoking affects DNA
Reproductive and genetic damages
It’s common knowledge that you’re not allowed to smoke during pregnancy. Research from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health observed how environment-induced genetic changes in newborns happen when their mothers smoke. Genes affected by these changes could lead to congenital disabilities, stunted fetal development, and the likelihood of the newborn developing addiction in adulthood.
Then again, this is not to say that men who smoke won’t affect the health of the children they conceive as well. Verywell Family notes how smoking puts sperms at a high risk of carrying damaged genes. Once a sperm with damaged DNA comes into contact with an egg, fertilization may result in congenital disabilities, an unhealthy baby, or even miscarriage.
DNA damage induced by smoking is highly likely to be permanent. Smoking sends signals to start methylation, which often changes or stops more than 7,000 gene functions. This creates “DNA scars,” which ultimately interrupt a gene’s normal functioning, causing ailments such as heart disease and cancer. Fortunately, not all genes have permanent scars. Most of these gene patterns—including those linked to heart health and cancer—post-smoking cessation return to normal.
How to stop smoking
Nicotine replacement therapy
The best method for treating physical dependence is a clinical solution called nicotine replacement therapy. Though infused with nicotine, these smoking cessation aids come in non-addictive and toxic forms that help users let go of smoking over time.
Nicotine pouches, in particular, are advantageous because they are discreet smoking cessation aids that you can take with you wherever you go—even in tobacco-free spaces. The bestselling nicotine pouches on Prilla include ZYN, On!, and Velo because they don’t cause teeth discoloration. These particular brands also offer pouches in a variety of strengths (up to 8mg) and flavors such as fruit, spice, mint, and coffee, so there’s an option for every type of preference.
Suppose you’re looking to fixate your mouth with something other than a cigarette Nicorette offers nicotine as lozenges and gums. Like the nicotine pouches, lozenges and gum supply nicotine without toxic chemicals found in cigarettes.
Stop-smoking support groups
When quitting smoking, it’s crucial to realize that physical dependence is just one aspect. The other is about changing how you can respond to triggers that would make you want to smoke again. Our piece’ 7 Ways to Build and Keep Healthy Habits’ points out that you can consciously replace unhealthy habits by starting with understanding how they formed in the first place.
For those who thrive in interactive settings, stop-smoking support groups can help you understand the reason behind your smoking habits through conversation. Nicotine Anonymous, for example, follows a 12-step group processing similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, which begins with the acceptance of the substance’s addictive effect. This support group uses a community-based approach that helps you identify your triggers and slowly reform your response to them to get off nicotine reliance.
The consequences of smoking on your health and DNA are severe, but in most cases, there’s still a chance to undo damages. There are several resources, support groups, and NRT options for you to find the best way to overcome your nicotine dependence and save your genes from further damage.