Taking a step away from the usual warnings of heart, lung and throat damage, the Smokefree Health Harms campaign warns smokers that the cyanide and arsenic in cigarettes can lead to a heightened risk of dementia, stroke and brain damage.
“Smoking is the major cause of premature death, with one in two smokers dying prematurely from smoking-related diseases, and it is extremely worrying that people still underestimate the health harms associated with it,” warns Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England.
“However, it is not all doom and gloom for smokers looking to quit this New Year. Within five years of stopping smoking, your risk of stroke can be reduced to the same as a lifetime non-smoker.”
According to research carried out by the University College London, smoking has the potential to significantly harm memory and cognitive function, while at the same time posing the cancer, lung and heart-damage risks most are fully aware of.
“Accelerated decline in cognitive reasoning and memory is more advanced in smokers, with one of our studies at UCL showing it to be nearly 38 per cent faster in persistent male smokers compared to non-smokers,” said Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson of UCL.
“The decline in the brain’s cognitive powers is naturally seen with ageing but there are a number of identifiable risk factors, including smoking and heavy alcohol consumption, which can be associated with an accelerated rate of decline.”