Smoking has the potential to permanently damage your health. Be aware of the risks before you light up.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States each year. In the US alone, tobacco causes 440,000 deaths every year. Know the truth about tobacco use that knowledge to make your own informed decisions about smoking.
Please note that the information provided on these pages is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you need help quitting smoking, or have concerns about your health due to smoking, please contact a medical professional.
Why Quit Smoking?
By the American Cancer Society
Health concerns usually top the list of reasons people give for quitting smoking. This is a very real concern: smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Half of all smokers who keep smoking will end up dying from a smoking-related illness. In the United States alone, smoking is responsible for nearly 1 in 5 deaths, and about 8.6 million people suffer from smoking-related lung and heart diseases.
Nearly everyone knows that smoking can cause lung cancer, but few people realize it is also linked to higher risk for many other kinds of cancer too, including cancer of the mouth, nose, sinuses, voice box (larynx), throat (pharynx), esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, stomach, and acute myeloid leukemia.
Smoking greatly increases your risk of getting long-term lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis. These diseases make it harder to breathe, and are grouped together under the name chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD causes chronic illness and disability, and gets worse over time— COPD is potentially fatal. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis can be found in people as young as 40, but usually appears later in life when the symptoms worsen. Long-term smokers have the highest risk of developing severe COPD. Pneumonia is also included on the list of diseases known to be caused by smoking.
Heart attacks, strokes, and blood vessel diseases
Smokers are twice as likely to die from heart attacks as are non-smokers. Smoking is a major risk factor for peripheral vascular disease, a narrowing of the blood vessels that carry blood to the leg and arm muscles. Smoking also affects the walls of the vessels that carry blood to the brain (carotid arteries), which can cause strokes. Smoking can cause abdominal aortic aneurysm, in which the walls of the body's main artery weaken and separate, often causing sudden death. Men who smoke are more likely to develop erectile dysfunction (impotence) because of blood vessel disease.
Blindness and other problems
Smoking causes an increased risk of macular degeneration, one of the most common causes of blindness in older people. It promotes cataracts, which cloud the lens of the eye. It also causes premature wrinkling of the skin, bad breath, gum disease and tooth loss, bad-smelling clothes and hair, and yellow fingernails.
Special risks to women and babies
Women have some unique risks linked to smoking. Women over 35 who smoke and use birth control pills have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots of the legs. Women who smoke are more likely to miscarry (lose the baby) or have a lower birth-weight baby. Low birth-weight babies are more likely to die, or have learning and physical problems.
Years of life lost due to smoking
Based on data collected in the late 1990s, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that adult male smokers lost an average of 13.2 years of life and female smokers lost 14.5 years of life because of smoking. Each year, smoking causes early deaths for about 443,000 people in the United States. Considering the diseases that smoking can cause, it can rob you of your quality of life long before you die. Smoking-related illness can limit your activities by making it harder to breathe, get around, work, or play.
Why Quit Now?
No matter how old you are or how long you have smoked, quitting can help you live longer and be healthier. People who stop smoking before age 50 cut their risk of dying in the next 15 years in half compared with those who keep smoking. Ex-smokers enjoy a higher quality of life. They have fewer illnesses like colds and the flu, lower rates of bronchitis and pneumonia, and feel healthier than people who still smoke.
For decades the Surgeon General has reported the health risks linked to smoking. In 2010, the Surgeon General concluded:
- There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. Any exposure to tobacco smoke – even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke – is harmful.
- Damage from tobacco smoke is immediate. The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale. Your blood then carries the toxicants to every organ in your body.
- Smoking longer means more damage. Both the risk and the severity of many diseases caused by smoking are directly related to how long the smoker has smoked and the number of cigarettes smoked per day.
- Cigarettes are designed for addiction. The design and contents of tobacco products make them more attractive and addictive than ever before.
- There is no safe cigarette. Even filtered, low-tar, and “light” variations, have NOT reduced overall disease risk among smokers.
- The only proven strategy for reducing the risk of tobacco-related disease and death is to never smoke, and if you do smoke to quit.