Smoking and Its Effects

Basic Information

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causing many diseases and affecting the health of smokers in general. Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits for you and your loved ones.

Learn more about the harmful effects of smoking, smokeless tobacco, and secondhand smoke from the resources below and find out about resources that address prevention.  Make this the year you or someone close to you quits smoking.

Health Effects

Information on diseases caused by tobacco use, such as cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases

  • The risk of dying from lung cancer is more than 22 times higher among men who smoke cigarettes and about 12 times higher among women who smoke cigarettes compared with never smokers.
  • Cigarette smoking increases the risk for many types of cancer, including cancers of the lip, oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, larynx (voice box), lung, uterine cervix, urinary bladder, and kidney.
  • Rates of cancers related to cigarette smoking vary widely among members of racial/ethnic groups but are highest among African-American men.
Heart Disease and Stroke
  • Smoking causes coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Cigarette smokers are 2–4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers.
  • Cigarette smoking approximately doubles a person’s risk for stroke.
  • Cigarette smoking causes reduced circulation by narrowing the blood vessels (arteries). Smokers are more than 10 times as likely as nonsmokers to develop peripheral vascular disease.
  • Smoking causes abdominal aortic aneurysm
Respiratory Health
  • Cigarette smoking is associated with a tenfold increase in the risk of dying from chronic obstructive lung disease. About 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung diseases are attributable to cigarette smoking
  • Cigarette smoking has many adverse reproductive and early childhood effects, including an increased risk for infertility, preterm delivery, stillbirth, low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Postmenopausal women who smoke have lower bone density than women who never smoked. Women who smoke have an increased risk for hip fracture than never smokers.
Secondhand Smoke
  • Secondhand smoke contains at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic, including more than 50 that can cause cancer.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults.
  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25–30% and their lung cancer risk by 20–30%.
  • Breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system that can increase the risk of heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes respiratory symptoms in children and slows their lung growth.
  • Secondhand smoke causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks in children.
  • There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. Even brief exposure can be dangerous.
Smoking During Pregnancy

Research has shown that smoking during pregnancy causes health problems for both mothers and babies, such as

  • Pregnancy complications
  • Premature birth
  • Low-birth-weight infants
  • Stillbirth
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Smokeless Tobacco
  • Smokeless tobacco contains 28 cancer-causing agents (carcinogens). It is a known cause of human cancer, as it increases the risk of developing cancer of the oral cavity. Oral health problems strongly associated with smokeless tobacco use are leukoplakia (a lesion of the soft tissue that consists of a white patch or plaque that cannot be scraped off) and recession of the gums.
  • Smokeless tobacco use can lead to nicotine addiction and dependence.
  • Adolescents who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to become cigarette smokers.

Quit Smoking

You CAN quit smoking. Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits for you and your loved ones. The resources listed below discuss the benefits of quitting and provide helpful guidance.
For additional support in quitting, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to local resources, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669); TTY 1-800-332-8615.

How to Quit:

Government Resources

  • - a website dedicated to helping you quit smoking.
  • I QUIT! What to Do When You're Sick of Smoking, Chewing, or Dipping - a booklet that will help you quit all tobacco products.
  • Pathways to Freedom: Winning the Fight Against Tobacco - guide that addresses tobacco issues specific to African Americans.
  • Questions and Answers About Smoking Cessation - a fact sheet from the National Cancer Institute.
  • Quit Smoking - tools and guides to help you quit smoking.

Quit Tips
Five tips to help you quit.

  • Tobacco Cessation—You Can Quit Smoking Now! - the latest information to help you quit from the Surgeon General's Web site.
  • You Can Quit Smoking - a consumer guide to help you become tobacco free.

Other Resources

  • American Cancer Society - guide to quitting smoking.
  • American Heart Association - 1-800-AHA-USA1
  • American Legacy Foundation—Quit Plan - a 5-day plan to get ready to quit.
  • American Lung Association - 1-800-LUNG-USA

* Information comes from the Center of Disease Control website:

* See Related Information below.

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