It’s not just your Lungs!…Smoking damages your Kidneys too!

Be it the rugged Marlboro Man or the suave James Bond, showbiz has had a way of making a big section of its audience (especially the impressionable age groups) believe how smoking Cigarettes (tobacco) has an important role in building a “more attractive” social image for themselves. However, what these unsuspecting viewers are unaware of is the full range of clinically proven and often fatal health complications that accompany smoking tobacco in the long run.

If you are a Smoker, it’s not just your Lungs that are at stake, and Cancer isn’t the only (fatal) complication possible. Smoking also has a profound impact on multiple other organs including, but not limited to your Heart & Blood vessels, Liver, Kidneys, Eyes, Muscles, Nerves & Immune System.

Here at All Things Kidney, we will be specifically concentrating on why Smoking and Kidneys can never be friends. This is a relatively less talked about aspect but a significant contributor to the overall Kidney Disease burden worldwide. So, let us start, shall we?




Tobacco rolled into a cigarette in its native form contains huge quantities of a chemical called Nicotine — the precise culprit that is responsible for smoking addictions. Once you light that cigarette, the smoke produced from burning tobacco contains a cocktail of over 5000 unbelievably toxic chemicals, more than 20 of which are known cancer-causing agents (Fancy word: Carcinogens). Some of these include: –

Tobacco Smoke Constituents




Nicotine is notorious for aggressively narrowing the internal width of blood vessels that it encounters on the way. This in-turn compromises adequate blood flow and oxygen delivery through the vessel to tissues downstream. Small, thinner blood vessels nearer to organs are more prone to this effect than the larger ones. Long-term smoking narrows blood vessels permanently by stiffening their walls. Tissues beyond such vessels suffer from a chronic insufficiency of oxygen and start dying a premature death. Kidney tissue is no different.

Inhaling the whole cocktail of poisonous chemicals emanating in the cigarette smoke all at a time literally burns our airway & immediately lets these chemicals into the bloodstream.

This toxin-brigade affects your kidneys as explained below:

Smoking infographic

In addition to affecting kidneys adversely via injured blood vessels, cigarette smoke can also potentially perpetrate indirect kidney damage. A possible scenario could be setting-in of heart disease due to blood vessel injury and atherosclerosis. This would invariably lead to sustained high blood pressure which would bring about aggressive kidney tissue injury as explained here.

Irrespective of the mode of kidney injury, these damaging effects of smoking on kidneys make smokers more prone to present with:

1. Protein leakage in urine (even in absence of prior kidney disease)

2. Twice more likely to develop kidney cancer compared to non-smokers (greater the number of cigarettes smoked per day, higher the risk of developing kidney cancer)

3. Hastened diabetes-related kidney damage and almost double the rate of progression to kidney failure in smokers who are known diabetics as well.



As you can see in the infographic above, it is the smoke and all harmful chemicals in it that are the actual perpetrators of all smoking-related health risks.

Smoking and kidneys


If you do not smoke but happen to remain amongst a regular company of members who do, inhaling this smoke is detrimental to your health in all respects as mentioned above. Every year, secondhand smoke exposure is estimated to kill over 40000 non-smoker adults and 400 infants with the host of health complications listed above. Pregnant women must completely stay away from smoke from cigarettes or e-cigarettes. The chemicals in the smoke cause defects in your baby’s growth & development in the womb. Some of these could be potentially fatal.

However, the extent and intensity of tissue damage would differ depending on:

1. Your frequency of smoke exposure

2.The substance being smoked (e-cigarettes > filtered cigarettes > indigenous smokes (worst) ).





1. Reduce your cigarette consumption as soon as you can.

2. Seek your doctor’s opinion on if you could safely switch to cessation measures such as:

◾  E-cigarettes (vaping)

◾  Smokeless products – Nicotine gums or patches

NOTE: These measures are less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but by no measure match up to the health benefits that complete cessation of smoking tobacco & alternatives offer. More below:


3. Do not go for chewing Tobacco or Snuff

These substances are notorious for causing Cancer in the cheek, tongue, and gums.


4. Gradually go for complete abstinence (quit smoking tobacco and cessation products altogether) – This may sound difficult, but certainly the best approach!!



E-cigarettes (vaping) or nicotine chewing-gums / skin patches are common choices while trying to quit tobacco smoking. But e-cigarettes contain huge amounts of Nicotine in them (21-85% of the cartridge) while the latter (patches/gums) stand for the name “Nicotine” themselves.

So, these reduce that “urge” to smoke by continuing to provide nicotine in blood while bypassing the side-effects of smoking tobacco.

However, Nicotine is a chief ingredient causing smoking-related adverse effects within the body, especially the blood vessels. In the context of kidney disease, Nicotine is an invitation to more suffering. It is best to avoid any of the above alternatives altogether. Or if you choose to use them, please make a genuine effort to wean yourself off them ASAP.



1. Avoid second-hand smoke exposure by as much as is possible (duh!)

2. Completely stay away from smoke from tobacco cigarettes or E-cigarettes if you are pregnant or lactating.




If you do not smoke or have shown the necessary willpower to already quit, kudos to you! You are an inspiration to many out there who are struggling to quit.

And if right now, you are trying to pacify yourself with words like “I won’t contract any of those ill-effects of smoking ever”, please remember, the basic human physiology (barring some genetic variations) is the same for all of us, however different lifestyles we all may lead. Smoking affects us all. That “attractive social profile” is not attractive anymore once smoking-associated health risks set-in. This has already claimed a lot many precious lives in the past. Don’t let yourself become one of those in the future.




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Smoking causes kidney damage too
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Smoking causes kidney damage too
It’s not just Lungs that are at stake, & Cancer isn’t the only known complication. SMOKING adversely impacts your Kidneys & lowers your immunity too!
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All Things Kidney Official
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