What are the health effects of smoking?
There's no way around it; smoking is bad for your health. It harms nearly every organ of the body, some that you would not expect. Cigarette smoking causes nearly one in five deaths in the United States. It can also cause many other cancers and health problems. These include:
- Cancers, including lung and oral cancers
- Lung diseases, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Damage to and thickening of blood vessels, which causes high blood pressure
- Blood clots and stroke
- Vision problems, such as cataracts and macular degeneration (AMD)
Smoking also causes addiction to nicotine, a stimulant drug that is in tobacco. Nicotine addiction makes it much harder for people to quit smoking.
What are the health risks of secondhand smoke?
Your smoke is also bad for other people - they breathe in your smoke secondhand and can get many of the same problems as smokers do. This includes heart disease and lung cancer. Children exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and more severe asthma. Mothers who breathe secondhand smoke while pregnant are more likely to have preterm labor and babies with low birth weight.
Are other forms of tobacco also dangerous?
Besides cigarettes, there are several other forms of tobacco. Some people smoke tobacco in cigars and water pipes (hookahs). These forms of tobacco also contain harmful chemicals and nicotine. Some cigars contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes.
E-cigarettes often look like cigarettes, but they work differently. They are battery-operated smoking devices. Using an e-cigarette is called vaping. Not much is known about the health risks of using them. We do know they contain nicotine, the same addictive substance in tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes also expose non-smokers to secondhand aerosols (rather than secondhand smoke), which contain harmful chemicals.
Smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff, is also bad for your health. Smokeless tobacco can cause certain cancers, including oral cancer. It also increases your risk of getting heart disease, gum disease, and oral lesions.
Why should I quit?
Remember, there is no safe level of tobacco use. Smoking even just one cigarette per day over a lifetime can cause smoking-related cancers and premature death. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of health problems. The earlier you quit, the greater the benefit. Some immediate benefits of quitting include:
- Lower heart rate and blood pressure
- Less carbon monoxide in the blood (carbon monoxide reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen)
- Better circulation
- Less coughing and wheezing
NIH National Cancer Institute
- Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (National Institute on Drug Abuse) Also in Spanish
- Let's Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free: Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health (Department of Health and Human Services) - PDF
- Smoking and Tobacco Use: Health Effects (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Stay Away from Tobacco (American Cancer Society) Also in Spanish
- Tobacco Addiction (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Cancer and Tobacco Use (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Cigar Smoking and Cancer (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- How Smoking Affects the Heart and Blood Vessels (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
- Nicotine Dependence (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Smoking and Asthma (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Smoking and Eye Disease (American Academy of Ophthalmology) Also in Spanish
- What's in a Cigarette? (American Lung Association)
- E-Cigarettes: MedlinePlus Health Topic (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- E-Cigs, Menthol, and Dip (National Cancer Institute, Tobacco Control Research Branch)
- Hookahs (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Light, Low, Mild or Similar Descriptors (Food and Drug Administration) - PDF
- Low-Yield Cigarettes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Menthol Tobacco Products (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Tobacco Products (Department of Health and Human Services)
Health Check Tools
- Quiz: How Strong Is Your Nicotine Addiction? (National Cancer Institute, Tobacco Control Research Branch)
Statistics and Research
- Current Cigarette Smoking among Adults in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Lung Development May Explain Why Some Non-Smokers Get COPD and Some Heavy Smokers Do Not (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
- Stop Smoking Early to Improve Cancer Survival (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
- Tobacco-Related Mortality (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Cigar Smoking (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Cigarette Smoking (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Tobacco Smoking (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Tobacco Use Disorder (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Water Pipe Smoking (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- How Lungs Work (American Lung Association)