Does Smoking Stunt Your Growth?

There are so many side effects that come along with smoking cigarettes, including hair loss, wrinkles on your face, bad breath, and even lung cancer. The negative effects seem to be endless, making you wonder why anyone would want to smoke in the first place.

Did you know that smoking has even been known to stunt your growth?

If you’re a smoker, it is important to quit as soon as possible. Not only will this help you avoid all of these harmful health risks, but it will also allow you to grow at your natural rate.

We are not just talking about the growth of your height, but also the growth of your bones, muscles, and even your organs.

Does Smoking Stunt Your Growth?

If you’re a smoker, there’s a chance you could experience stunted growth.

Smokers tend to have shorter height and smaller head sizes compared to nonsmokers. This isn’t surprising, since smoking causes damage to lung tissue, which affects breathing. This leads to less oxygen reaching the rest of the body, causing slower growth and smaller heads.

There have been plenty of research over the years determining what causes this effect on children, teenagers, and adults who smoke. Studies show that even second-hand smoke can cause stunting in kids.

In fact, unborn fetuses can even be impacted by stunted growth if their mother smokes during their pregnancy.

Let’s take a deeper look at how smoking stunts your growth at different stages of life.

The Effect Of Smoking On The Growth Of Babies (During Pregnancy)

In recent decades, it has been stated by doctors around the world that smoking during pregnancy should be completely avoided.

There are several birth defects that can occur to a baby if he or she is born to a mother who smokes while pregnant. These birth defects include cleft lip and palate, heart problems, low birth weight, and even death.

When taken in by a fetus, the carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke causes the blood vessels to constrict, which leads to slower growth of the fetus. This means that the child will have a smaller head size than other children his or her age.

The effect of smoking on the growth of babies is more severe when the mother smokes during the first trimester of pregnancy.

It has been stated by the CDC that one in five babies whose mothers smoked during their pregnancy were not only more likely to be born prematurely, but were also more likely to have a low birth weight.

A study was conducted at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, where researchers studied the effects of maternal cigarette smoking on fetal growth.

They found that infants exposed to secondhand smoke had significantly lowered birth weights when compared to those who did not.

The Effect Of Smoking On The Growth Of Children

Secondhand smoke can be a detriment to the development and growth of young children. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are more prone to respiratory infections, asthma attacks, and sudden infant deaths.

Children exposed to secondhand smoke have smaller lungs and airways, as well as an increased risk for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease later in life.

A study performed at the Harvard University School of Public Health discovered that children whose parents smoked around them daily (ten or more cigarettes) were, at an average, 0.65 cm shorter than children of nonsmokers.

The children whose parents smoked nine or fewer cigarettes a day were around 0.45 cm shorter than the children of nonsmokers.

This study revealed that while there was a slight height difference between the children of the smokers and nonsmokers, secondhand smoke did not have as much of an effect on them as it did on unborn fetuses. 

If a child starts smoking cigarettes themselves at a young age, it has been shown that their growth rate will decrease over time.

If the child continues to smoke throughout adolescence, they may experience stunted growth. Tobacco smoke has also been reported to stunt bone growth and lung development during childhood.

The Effect Of Smoking On The Growth Of Teenagers

According to a health report in 2014, the average age for people to try their first cigarette in the US was 15.3. Throughout the US and the majority of Europe, the average age was between 15 and 16.

Over the past few decades, the percentage of children and teenagers who smoke has dropped significantly. Compared to the 1980s and 1990s, less young people are taking up smoking tobacco in this day and age. However, it is still fairly popular among adolescents. 

It has been stated that individuals who smoked from the age of 15 had 8% less lung capacity when compared to other teenagers of the same age.

Smoking stunts the growth of young people’s lungs during the crucial stages of their development. This leads to decreased lung capacity and overall reduced oxygen intake.

Smoking also delays the production of testosterone, which is responsible for sexual maturation in males. This delay in puberty leads to lower sperm counts and higher rates of testicular cancer. It also makes it harder for the individual’s body to build muscle and burn fat.

The average female stops growing at 14 years old, while the average male stops growing at 17. If a teenager starts smoking before this age, or is exposed to large amounts of secondhand smoke, it could lead to a much slower rate of growth and development.

The Effect Of Smoking On The Growth Of Adults

As we mentioned previously, most people reach their full adult height between the ages of 14 to 17, depending on their gender. It would be believed that adults cannot be affected by stunted growth, as they have already reached their full height, but studies show otherwise.

Smokers will have higher levels of myostatin, a protein that inhibits muscle growth. Myostatin is produced naturally in the body, but can be increased through exercise.

When myostatin is present in high quantities, muscles do not grow as fast as normal. In addition, nicotine increases the amount of myostatin in the blood, making it difficult for the body to produce new muscle tissue.

This means that adults who smoke will find it much harder to build muscle mass than those who don’t.

When examining the effects of smoking on the growth of adults, researchers also found that men who smoked 20 cigarettes or more per day had a smaller testicle size than those who didn’t smoke.

The reason behind this is that nicotine causes the pituitary gland to release more follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates the testicles to produce more spermatogonia.

These cells then go into meiosis and form primary spermatocytes. Primary spermatocytes then develop into secondary spermatocytes, which eventually become mature sperms.

Therefore, if there are fewer spermatogonia available due to smoking, fewer sperms will be formed.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, smoking affects the growth of both children and adults alike.

The negative effects are mainly seen in unborn babies, due to them directly being exposed to cigarette smoke. The effects on adults are more subtle, including a decrease in muscle mass, a reduction in bone density, and an increase in myostatin levels.

Of course, there are much worse symptoms associated with smoking, such as heart disease and cancer. The risk of being a little shorter than other people your age seems like a small price to pay when compared to the bigger, more damaging side effects of smoking.

As we said previously, the percentage of children and teenagers who smoke has been decreasing over time. However, it still remains a problem among adults, especially those who start smoking early in life.

While being shorter in stature isn’t necessarily going to cause you any major difficulties in life, it’s important to remember that smoking does affect your health negatively in so many other ways.

So, if you’re thinking about starting to smoke, think twice!

Jonie Dean
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