Smoking Hazards

Smoking cigarettes is extremely bad for your health. Tobacco smoke has over 200 known poisons in it. There are over 60 chemicals in tobacco smoke that cause cancer. Some of the chemicals found in cigarette smoke include:

  • Cyanide.

  • Benzene.

  • Formaldehyde.

  • Methanol (wood alcohol).

  • Acetylene (fuel used in welding torches).

  • Ammonia.

Cigarette smoke also contains the poisonous gases nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide.

Cigarette smokers have an increased risk of many serious medical problems, including:

  • Lung cancer.

  • Lung disease (such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and emphysema).

  • Heart attack and chest pain due to the heart not getting enough oxygen (angina).

  • Heart disease and peripheral blood vessel disease.

  • Hypertension.

  • Stroke.

  • Oral cancer (cancer of the lip, mouth, or voice box).

  • Bladder cancer.

  • Pancreatic cancer.

  • Cervical cancer.

  • Pregnancy complications, including premature birth.

  • Low birthweight babies.

  • Early menopause.

  • Lower estrogen level for women.

  • Infertility.

  • Facial wrinkles.

  • Blindness.

  • Increased risk of broken bones (fractures).

  • Senile dementia.

  • Stillbirths and smaller newborn babies, birth defects, and genetic damage to sperm.

  • Stomach ulcers and internal bleeding.

Children of smokers have an increased risk of the following, because of secondhand smoke exposure:

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

  • Respiratory infections.

  • Lung cancer.

  • Heart disease.

  • Ear infections.

Smoking causes approximately:

  • 90% of all lung cancer deaths in men.

  • 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women.

  • 90% of deaths from chronic obstructive lung disease.

Compared with nonsmokers, smoking increases the risk of:

  • Coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times.

  • Stroke by 2 to 4 times.

  • Men developing lung cancer by 23 times.

  • Women developing lung cancer by 13 times.

  • Dying from chronic obstructive lung diseases by 12 times.

Someone who smokes 2 packs a day loses about 8 years of his or her life. Even smoking lightly shortens your life expectancy by several years. You can greatly reduce the risk of medical problems for you and your family by stopping now. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death and disease in our society. Within days of quitting smoking, your circulation returns to normal, you decrease the risk of having a heart attack, and your lung capacity improves. There may be some increased phlegm in the first few days after quitting, and it may take months for your lungs to clear up completely. Quitting for 10 years cuts your lung cancer risk to almost that of a nonsmoker.


  • Nicotine is the chemical agent in tobacco that is capable of causing addiction or dependence.

  • When you smoke and inhale, nicotine is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream through your lungs. Nicotine absorbed through the lungs is capable of creating a powerful addiction. Both inhaled and non-inhaled nicotine may be addictive.

  • Addiction studies of cigarettes and spit tobacco show that addiction to nicotine occurs mainly during the teen years, when young people begin using tobacco products.


There are many health benefits to quitting smoking.

  • Likelihood of developing cancer and heart disease decreases. Health improvements are seen almost immediately.

  • Blood pressure, pulse rate, and breathing patterns start returning to normal soon after quitting.

  • People who quit may see an improvement in their overall quality of life.

Some people choose to quit all at once. Other options include nicotine replacement products, such as patches, gum, and nasal sprays. Do not use these products without first checking with your caregiver.


It is not easy to quit smoking. Nicotine is addicting, and longtime habits are hard to change. To start, you can write down all your reasons for quitting, tell your family and friends you want to quit, and ask for their help. Throw your cigarettes away, chew gum or cinnamon sticks, keep your hands busy, and drink extra water or juice. Go for walks and practice deep breathing to relax. Think of all the money you are saving: around $1,000 a year, for the average pack-a-day smoker.

Nicotine patches and gum have been shown to improve success at efforts to stop smoking. Zyban (bupropion) is an anti-depressant drug that can be prescribed to reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms and to suppress the urge to smoke. Smoking is an addiction with both physical and psychological effects. Joining a stop-smoking support group can help you cope with the emotional issues. For more information and advice on programs to stop smoking, call your doctor, your local hospital, or these organizations:

  • American Lung Association - 1-800-LUNGUSA

  • American Cancer Society - 1-800-ACS-2345