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Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking

Smoking and Death

By Fathima Nazeema Published 4 months ago 4 min read

Smoking & Tobacco Use

Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers in general.1,2

Quitting smoking lowers your risk for smoking-related diseases and can add years to your life.1,2

Smoking and Death

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.1

Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is nearly one in five deaths.1,2,3

Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:4

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

Illegal drug use

Alcohol use

Motor vehicle injuries

Firearm-related incidents

More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States.1

Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths.1,2 More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.5

Smoking causes about 80% (or 8 out of 10) of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).1

Cigarette smoking increases risk for death from all causes in men and women.1

The risk of dying from cigarette smoking has increased over the last 50 years in the U.S.1

Smoking and Increased Health Risks

Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.1

Estimates show smoking increases the risk:

For coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times1,6

For stroke by 2 to 4 times1

Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times1

Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times1

Smoking causes diminished overall health, increased absenteeism from work, and increased health care utilization and cost.1

Smoking and Cardiovascular Disease

Smokers are at greater risk for diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease).1,2

Smoking causes stroke and coronary heart disease, which are among the leading causes of death in the United States.1,3

Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of cardiovascular disease.1

Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them thicken and grow narrower. This makes your heart beat faster and your blood pressure go up. Clots can also form.1,2

A stroke occurs when:

A clot blocks the blood flow to part of your brain;

A blood vessel in or around your brain bursts.1,2

Blockages caused by smoking can also reduce blood flow to your legs and skin.1,2

Smoking and Respiratory Disease

Smoking can cause lung disease by damaging your airways and the small air sacs (alveoli) found in your lungs.1,2

Lung diseases caused by smoking include COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.1,2

Cigarette smoking causes most cases of lung cancer.1,2

If you have asthma, tobacco smoke can trigger an attack or make an attack worse.1,2

Smokers are 12 to 13 times more likely to die from COPD than nonsmokers.1

Smoking and Cancer

Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body: Mouth and throat (oral cavity and pharynx); Esophagus, voice box (larynx); Lung, bronchus, and trachea; Acute myeloid leukemia; Liver; Kidney and renal pelvis; Stomach; Uterine cervix; Pancreas; Urinary bladder; Colon and rectum

Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body:1,2


Blood (acute myeloid leukemia)


Colon and rectum (colorectal)


Kidney and ureter



Oropharynx (includes parts of the throat, tongue, soft palate, and the tonsils)



Trachea, bronchus, and lung

Smoking also increases the risk of dying from cancer and other diseases in cancer patients and survivors.1

If nobody smoked, one of every three cancer deaths in the United States would not happen.1,2

Smoking and Other Health Risks

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and affects a person’s overall

Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant. It can also affect her baby’s health before and after birth. Smoking increases risks for:1,2,5

Preterm (early) delivery

Stillbirth (death of the baby before birth)

Low birth weight

Sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death)

Ectopic pregnancy

Orofacial clefts in infants

Smoking can also affect men’s sperm, which can reduce fertility and also increase risks for birth defects and miscarriage.2

Smoking can affect bone health.1,5

Women past childbearing years who smoke have weaker bones than women who never smoked. They are also at greater risk for broken bones.

Smoking affects the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss.1

Smoking can increase your risk for cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it hard for you to see). It can also cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is damage to a small spot near the center of the retina, the part of the eye needed for central vision.1

Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes mellitus and can make it harder to control. The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40% higher for active smokers than nonsmokers.1,2

Smoking causes general adverse effects on the body, including inflammation and decreased immune function.1

Smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis

Quitting and Reduced Risks

Quitting smoking is one of the most important actions people can take to improve their health. This is true regardless of their age or how long they have been smoking. Visit the Benefits of Quitting page for more information about how quitting smoking can improve your health.


About the Creator

Fathima Nazeema

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