25 health risks of smoking
To help you get motivated...
Thousands of studies have been conducted on smoking throughout the world. The results are conclusive: when we smoke cigarettes we are taking huge risks with our health. The good news? Quitting smoking is the single most important thing a person can do to improve their health. Here are just 25 of the known health risks (yup, there are more!):
1. Tobacco use is an addiction. Nicotine is the substance in tobacco which causes addiction. Tobacco addiction is hard to break due to the combination of the nicotine addiction along with physical and psychological triggers.1
2. In Canada, tobacco causes about 37,000 deaths each year and is the leading cause of preventable death.2
3. Tobacco kills more people in Canada than all deaths caused by traffic accidents, suicides, murders, and drug abuse combined.3
4. More than 1000 non-smokers will die this year in Canada due to tobacco use. Over 300 lung cancer deaths and at least 700 deaths from coronary heart disease will be caused by second-hand smoke.3
5. A Canadian dies every 12 minutes of a tobacco related disease.3
6. Smoking is the leading cause of premature death and illness in Newfoundland and Labrador.3 In Newfoundland and Labrador, 14-16 people die each week from a tobacco-related illness.5
7. One out of every two people who smoke will die from a smoking-related illness and one-half of those deaths will occur prematurely in middle age from ages 35-65.6
8. The average person who smokes may die 10 years earlier than a similar non-smoker.7
9. The short-term health consequences of smoking include respiratory effects such as cough and increased frequency and severity of illnesses like asthma, chest colds and bronchitis, as well as addiction to nicotine.3
10. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 harmful chemicals including tar, lead, hydrogen cyanide, acetone and carbon monoxide; at least 70 chemicals are known to cause, initiate or promote cancer.2,8
11. Smoking causes the following cancers: mouth, throat, larynx, lung, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, bladder, stomach, cervix and acute myeloid leukemia.9
12. At least one-third of cancers are preventable.9 The single most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of cancer is to live smoke free.9
13. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada. Most forms of lung cancer do not produce any symptoms in its early stages. By the time it is diagnosed, the cancer has advanced to more lethal stages. It is estimated that 85% of all lung cancers are attributable to smoking.9
14. The risk of oral cancer is 5 to 10 time higher among people who smoke than those who do not smoke.11 Smoking is also linked to increased risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.12
15. Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease including coronary heart disease, stroke, aortic aneurysm, atherosclerosis, and peripheral artery disease.13
16. The risk of heart disease and stroke is 2 to 4 times higher among people who smoke as compared to those who do not smoke.14
17. Cigarette smoking is very dangerous to women who use birth control pills, especially after the age 30. Women who smoke and take the Pill are at a much higher risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure than women who do not smoke while taking the Pill.3
18. Respiratory diseases caused by smoking include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) including emphysema and chronic bronchitis, asthma and acute respiratory illnesses, such as pneumonia.13,15
19. In Canada, smoking causes about 80% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).15
20. Smoking reduces the effectiveness of treatments16,17 and delays healing of wounds18. For people who smoke, recovery room stays are 20% longer19 and broken bones take nearly twice as long to heal.20
21. Women who smoke during pregnancy have more stillbirths, miscarriages, and premature deliveries than women who don’t smoke. Smoking has also been shown to increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and childbirth and increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).21
22. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke while pregnant can affect the baby’s growth and development which may lead to low birth weight.21
23. Children breathe faster than adults, making them more vulnerable to secondhand smoke. Asthma, respiratory infections, other respiratory problems and ear infections are more frequent in children who are exposed to secondhand smoke.22
24. Smoking isn’t pretty! It causes premature wrinkles, makes the skin dry and leathery, and causes yellow teeth, tooth decay, and bad breath.23
25. Smoking negatively impacts your eye health. People who smoke have twice the risk of developing cataracts and are two to three times more likely to develop AMD or age-related macular degeneration which can cause vision loss and blindness than people who do not smoke.24
Want to quit? Call the Smokers’ Helpline: 1-800-363-5864
1. Government of Canada. (2013). Nicotine Addiction. Retrieved from:
2. Health Canada. (2012). Health concerns: Fact sheets. Retrieved from:
3. Health Canada. (2008). Health concerns: The scoop. Retrieved from:
4. Mamoski Illing E.M., & Kaiserman M.J. (1999) Mortality attributable to Tobacco Use in Canada and its regions, 1994 and 1996. Chronic Diseases in Canada, 20(3), 111-117.
5. Alliance for the Control of Tobacco (ACT). Tobacco reduction in Newfoundland and Labrador 2013-2017 (overview). Retrieved from: http://www.actnl.com/media/smallTRS.pdf
6. World Health Organization. (2001).
Regulation of nicotine replacement therapies: A expert consensus. Copenhagen: World Health Organization.
7. Health Canada. (2008). Help your child stay smoke-free: A guide to protecting your child against tobacco use. Ottawa, Ontario: Health Canada.
8. The Lung Association. (2012). Facts about smoking.
10. Canadian Cancer Society. (2013). Smoking and cancer.
11. World Health Organization. (2013). Cancer prevention. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/cancer/prevention/en/
12. Health Canada. (2011). Health concerns: Smoking and oral cancer. Retrieved from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/legislation/label-etiquette/oral-bouche-eng.php
13. Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association. (n.d.) Smoking and smokeless tobacco.
14. U.S. Department of health and Human Services. (2010). How tobacco smoke causes disease: The biology and behavioral basis for smoking-attributable disease: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of Surgeon General. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Health effects of cigarette smoking. Retrieved from: href=”http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/”>http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/
15. Health Canada. (2011) Smoking and COPD. Retrieved from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/legislation/label-etiquette/pulmon-eng.php
16. Browman, G.P., Wong, G., ZHodson, I., Sathya, J., Russell, R., McAlpine, L., Skingley, P., & Levine, M.N. (1993). Influence of cigarette smoking on the fficacy of radiation therapy in head and neck cancer. The New England Journal of Medicine, 328, 159-163.
17. Zevin, S., & Benowitz, N. (1999). Drug interactions with tobacco smoking. An update. Clinical Pharmacokinetics, 36, 425-438
18. Silverstein, P. (1992). Smoking and wound healing. The American Journal of Medicine, 93(1A).
19. Handlin, D.S., Baker, T., & Woolwich, J. (1990). Effect of smoking on duration in recovery room. Anesthesiology, 73(3A)
20. Chen, F., Osterman, A.L., & Mahoney, K. (2001). Smoking and bony union after ulna-shortening osteotomy. American Journal of Orthopedics, 30(6), 486-489
21. Health Canada. (2007). Pregnancy. Retrieved from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/body-corps/preg-gros-eng.php
22. The Lung Association. (2012). Second-hand smoke: Children and second-hand smoke.
23. Health Canada. (2008). It will never happen to me. Retrieved from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/youth-jeunes/scoop-primeur/never-jamais-eng.php#skin
24. Propel Centre for Population Impact. (n.d.) Smoking and vision loss.