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Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking

Overview

Smoking:1,2

  • Harms nearly every organ of the body
  • Causes many diseases and reduces the health of smokers in general

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

 

Smoking and Death

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

  • Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is about one in five deaths.1,2,3
  • Smoking causes more deaths each year than all of these 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 during its history.1
  • Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths in men and women.1,2 More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.5
  • About 80% (or 8 out of 10) of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are caused by smoking.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 men and women in the United States.1

Smoking and Increased Health Risks

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

  • Smoking is estimated to increase 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 heath, such as self-reported poor 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—the leading causes of death in the United States.1
  • 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 heart attack occurs when a clot blocks the blood flow to your heart. When this happens, your heart cannot get enough oxygen. This damages the heart muscle, and part of the heart muscle can die.1,2
  • A stroke occurs when a clot blocks the blood flow to part of your brain or when 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:1,2 (See figure above)

  • Bladder
  • Blood (acute myeloid leukemia)
  • Cervix
  • Colon and rectum (colorectal)
  • Esophagus
  • Kidney and ureter
  • Larynx
  • Liver
  • Oropharynx (includes parts of the throat, tongue, soft palate, and the tonsils)
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach
  • Trachea, bronchus, and lung

If nobody smoked, one of every three cancer deaths in the United States would not happen.1,2 Smoking increases the risk of dying from cancer and other diseases in cancer patients and survivors.1

Smoking and Other Health Risks

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and affects a person’s overall health.1,2

  • Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant and can 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 (loss of the pregnancy).2
  • Smoking can affect bone health.1,5
    • Women past childbearing years who smoke have lower bone density (weaker bones) than women who never smoked and are 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) and age-related macular degeneration (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. It can cause inflammation and adverse effects on immune function.1
  • Smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.1

Quitting and Reduced Risks

  • Quitting smoking cuts cardiovascular risks. Just 1 year after quitting smoking, your risk for a heart attack drops sharply.2
  • Within 2 to 5 years after quitting smoking, your risk for stroke could fall to about the same as a nonsmoker’s.2
  • If you quit smoking, your risks for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder drop by half within 5 years.2
  • Ten years after you quit smoking, your risk for lung cancer drops by half.2

References

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2014 Feb 6].
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2010 [accessed 2014 Feb 6].
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. QuickStats: Number of Deaths from 10 Leading Causes—National Vital Statistics System, United States, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2013:62(08);155. [accessed 2014 Feb 6].
  4. Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL. Actual Causes of Death in the United States. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 2004;291(10):1238–45 [cited 2014 Feb 6].
  5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General, 2001 [accessed 2014 Feb 6].
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking: 25 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 1989 [accessed 2014 Feb 6].

For Further Information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion
Office on Smoking and Health
E-mail: tobaccoinfo@cdc.gov
Phone: 1-800-CDC-INFO

Media Inquiries: Contact CDC's Office on Smoking and Health press line at 770-488-5493.

 
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