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Smoking: The Secret to Looking Older

Most people strive to appear younger than they are. But smoking is one habit that can actually make you look older. Beyond the obvious health dangers — including heart disease, stroke, and lung, oral, and throat cancer — cigarettes are one of the best ways to ravage your appearance.

Cosmetic damage caused by cigarettes includes:

  • Skin changes. People who smoke have a greater risk for premature skin aging, or wrinkling, compared to nonsmokers. And these changes aren’t confined to the face or other exposed skin. One study showed that heavy smokers’ upper arms had the same fine wrinkling normally seen in elderly people.

  • Vocal shifts. Smoking can cause swelling of the vocal cords, the development of polyps on the vocal cords, or throat cancer. Any of these conditions can lead to a deepening and scratchiness of the voice. Because of the risk for cancer, anyone who develops voice changes should be evaluated by a health professional.

  • Dental issues. Cigarettes stain your teeth a dirty yellow and give you bad breath. Smoking also contributes to the development of periodontal (gum) disease, which can lead to tooth loss.

  • Body concerns. Smoking can leave you too winded to exercise regularly. And smokers tire more easily. That can mean your whole body ends up wearing out well ahead of schedule.

  • If you’d like to stop looking old before your time, talk with your doctor about quitting smoking. With today’s nicotine-replacement therapies, medications, and support counseling, there’s no reason to let smoking take away your youth—or your health.

“Smoking and Tobacco use.” Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 14, 2016. Accessed 2016.

“Effect of Smoking on Aging of Photoprotected Skin.” Yolanda R. Helfrich, M.D., et al. Archives of Dermatology. 2007, vol. 143, no. 3, pp. 397–402. Accessed 2016.

“Disorders of Vocal Abuse and Misuse.” National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health, April 22, 2008. Accessed 2016.

“Smoking and Tobacco.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. Accessed 2016.

“Tobacco and Cancer: How Tobacco and Smoking Affects Your Health.” American Cancer Society. Accessed 2016.

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