Tobacco has been around for centuries, but what we know about the health damage from smoking is much newer. For example, smokers tend to die more than 10 years earlier than people who don’t smoke. You can improve your health by choosing to quit smoking.
Is smoking bad for your health?
Since at least the 1950s, health experts have linked smoking to lung cancer. Research continues to pinpoint more ways tobacco harms your health, from cancers to chronic (long-term) diseases.
Experts estimate that 16 million Americans live with a disease caused by smoking. Every year, roughly 480,000 people die from smoking-related diseases. That means that for every person who dies from smoking, at least 30 others live with a serious smoking-related illness.
Are other forms of tobacco safer?
Many people believe that smoking a cigar is safer than smoking a cigarette. But, cigar smokers face many of the same potential risks as cigarette smokers, including cancer. Chewing tobacco or smokeless tobacco products are not safer than cigarettes, either. Smokeless tobacco contains almost 30 cancer-causing chemicals.
E-cigarettes (vapes), an emerging form of nicotine delivery, differ from traditional tobacco products. Vaping delivers more concentrated nicotine than cigarettes in a smokeless inhaled mist (vapor). Health risks from vape products range from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancer.
How does smoking affect your body?
Tobacco use harms every organ in your body. Smoking tobacco introduces not only nicotine but also more than 5,000 chemicals, including numerous carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals), into your lungs, blood and organs.
The damage caused by smoking can shorten your lifespan significantly. In fact, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States.
Pregnant women who smoke put their unborn babies at risk, too. Possible effects on pregnancy include:
- Ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening condition when the embryo implants outside the uterus.
- Birth defects, such as cleft palate.
- Low birth weight.
How does chewing tobacco affect your health?
Smokeless tobacco can cause nicotine addiction. People who use chewing tobacco may develop cancers of the mouth, esophagus and pancreas. And chewing tobacco causes gum disease, tooth decay and tooth loss.
Is vaping safer than smoking a cigarette?
The safety and dangers of e-cigarettes remain unclear. Many e-cigarettes contain high amounts of nicotine. And vaping may be a gateway into other forms of nicotine, like cigarettes or chewing tobacco.
E-cigarette vapors contain other damaging substances, too. Inhaling these non-nicotine vape ingredients may cause severe, sometimes deadly lung damage (called EVALI).
How are health problems from tobacco diagnosed?
Diagnosis depends on your specific symptoms. For example, a smokeless tobacco user who develops stomach cancer from swallowing juice with nicotine in it will need different tests than a person who inhales smoke.
If you smoke, your healthcare provider will ask for details about your tobacco use, physically examine you and sometimes order tests (like an X-ray to check for organ damage or an electrocardiogram and other heart-related tests).
What other conditions may be caused or worsened by tobacco?
In addition to its known cancer risks, smoking causes many other chronic (long-term) health problems that need ongoing care. Specific smoking-related problems that need treatment include:
- Decreased HDL (good) cholesterol and increased blood pressure (increasing risks for heart attack and stroke).
- Erectile dysfunction.
- Lower oxygen to the heart and other tissues in the body (increasing risks for coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, and diabetes).
- More frequent routine illnesses like colds, especially in children living with smokers.
- Poorer lung function (ability to get enough oxygen) leading to COPD, asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema.
How can a disease caused by smoking be treated?
Most diseases caused by smoking can be managed by a healthcare provider. You might need:
- A cardiologist (heart doctor) to treat any damage to your heart.
- A lung specialist to treat breathing problems, like COPD.
- An oncology team to treat any cancers you may develop.
How can I avoid getting sick from smoking?
The best way to avoid getting sick from smoking is to never start. If you do smoke, quitting as soon as possible can prevent or reverse health problems. Without smoking, you can:
- Live longer.
- Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Reduce your risk of developing a variety of other conditions.
- Feel healthier and have more energy.
- Look and feel better.
- Improve your sense of taste and smell.
- Save money.
How can I quit smoking?
There are many different ways to quit smoking. To succeed, you have to find a smoking cessation plan that works for your personality. You need to be ready emotionally and mentally. You should want to quit smoking for yourself and not just for family or friends exposed to your secondhand smoke.
When you decide to quit, these pointers can help:
- Get rid of all cigarettes and anything related to smoking, like lighters and ashtrays.
- Live with another smoker? Ask them not to smoke near you or convince them to quit with you.
- When the cravings hit, don’t focus on them. Cravings are temporary, so focus on why you want to quit instead.
- Keep yourself busy and find things to do with your hands — doodling or playing with a pencil or straw. Change any activities connected to smoking, too. Take a walk or read a book instead of taking a cigarette break.
- When you get the urge to smoke, take a deep breath. Hold it for ten seconds and release it slowly. Repeat this several times until the urge to smoke is gone. You can also try meditation to reduce baseline stress levels.
- Avoid places, people and situations you associate with smoking. Hang out with nonsmokers or go places that don’t allow smoking (like movies, museums, shops or libraries).
- Don’t substitute food or sugar-based products for cigarettes. These can cause weight gain. Instead, choose low-calorie, healthy foods. Try carrot or celery sticks, sugar-free hard candies or gum.
- Drink plenty of fluids, but limit alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. They can trigger urges to smoke.
- Remind yourself that you are a nonsmoker, and you don’t smoke.
- Don’t forget to exercise, because it has health benefits and help you relax.
If I have been smoking for a while, is it too late to quit?
Smoking cessation, at any age, will improve your health. Years of smoking damage can reverse with time.
When you quit, benefits happen almost immediately:
- After 20 minutes, your blood pressure and heart rate drop, and the temperature of your hands and feet increases. Plus, you stop polluting the air.
- After eight hours, your blood will contain lower levels of carbon monoxide and higher levels of oxygen.
- After 24 hours, your heart attack risk decreases.
- After 48 hours, your nerve endings adjust to the absence of nicotine, and you begin to regain your ability to taste and smell.
- After two weeks to three months, your circulation improves, and you can tolerate more exercise.
- After one to nine months, your overall energy level increases, and you cough less. Plus, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decrease.
- After one year, your risk of heart disease cuts in half compared to a current smoker.
- After five to 15 years, your risk of stroke lowers to that of people who never smoked.
- After 10 years, your risk of dying from lung cancer drops to almost the same rate as a lifelong nonsmoker. Plus, you decrease the risk of other cancers.
- After 15 years, your risk of heart disease finally reaches that of people who never smoked.
What help is there to quit smoking?
When you’re ready to quit smoking, you have a lot of supportive resources to choose from. Medical clinics, local pharmacies and support groups like Nicotine Anonymous are ready to help you quit. Apps and websites offer encouragement and accountability when you try to quit.
Facts That You Need to Know About Smoking
Here are some smoking facts that you NEED to know
Smoking Is Considered an Addiction Nowadays
Smoking facts are very clear when it comes to categorizing the habit of smoking – tobacco use (in any form, including smoking) is an addiction, caused by the substance called nicotine. But physical addiction to nicotine is only one aspect of smoking addiction; smoking is also a habit tightly connected to various social activities and, as such, is a very difficult habit to break.
For regular smokers, the decrease of nicotine level in the blood brings numerous withdrawal symptoms, including craving, anxiety, restlessness, headache, irritability, hunger, focusing issues and general feeling of tiredness.
Almost All Smokers Who Try to Quit Smoking Fail in Their First Couple of Attempts
Smoking facts reveal that more than two-thirds of smokers want to quit smoking completely, but unfortunately, only some of them succeed at their first attempt. But there is a valuable lesson in this: if you are a smoker yourself and your first attempt of quitting fails, don’t give up immediately. Most smokers succeed after a few attempts, most likely three or four attempts, although some smokers need more and some less.
Smokers can greatly improve their chances of succeeding in giving up their nasty habit by helping themselves with counseling, medication or both. Counseling can be done individually or in groups, and nowadays special phone counseling is available almost everywhere. In the USA, for example, the American Lung Association runs a counseling program called Freedom from Smoking (FFS), which is widely available. Most smokers trying to quit combine counseling with medication – there are various medications available nowadays that are very effective in helping smokers quit. Nicotine gums and nicotine patches are over-the-counter aids, and various other aids, such as bupropion and varenicline, are available by prescription.
Quitting Smoking Starts Showing Positive Results Right Away
The fact that quitting smoking brings several benefits is clear to all smokers, but very few are aware that these benefits begin to show straightaway. After only 72 hours, breathing becomes easier as bronchial tubes begin to relax and, consequently, there is also an increase in energy levels. After one month, the appearance of the skin improves, and in 3 to 9 months, coughing, wheezing and breathing problems improve as lung function increases. One year after the cessation of smoking, the risk of suffering from a heart attack is half that of a smoker. There are also various other short-term benefits that are not directly connected to health: improved financial situation (as smokers spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year on their habit), the smell of smoke goes away (from skin, clothes and breath) and even simple colds become less frequent.
Although quitting smoking is beneficial at any age, there are clear benefits when quitting at a younger age. Smoking facts reveal that those who stop smoking before the age of 35 have almost the same life expectancy as those who never smoked. Those who stop smoking before the age of 50 cut the risk of developing a smoking-related disease by half, and those who stop after being diagnosed with a smoking-related disease can also greatly improve their prognosis by quitting immediately.
Smoking Causes a Number of Fatal Diseases
Smoking has been connected to the following types of cancer: mouth cancer, throat cancer, larynx cancer, lung cancer, esophagus cancer, pancreas cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer and leukemia. In addition to cancer, smoking also greatly increases the risk for various cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, coronary heart disease, aortic aneurysm and atherosclerosis, and pulmonary diseases, such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
All these are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions, but smoking also causes other conditions that may not be fatal, but still greatly decrease the quality of one’s life – slower healing of wounds, infertility, impotence, periodontitis, halitosis, osteoporosis, dementia, optic neuropathy, teeth loss and many others.
Cigarettes Are the Most Traded Item on Earth
No other single item has a bigger market, since every year more than 1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000!) cigarettes are sold across the world. This constitutes one of the biggest global markets, worth around $400 billion. It is interesting to note that four of the globally most popular American cigarette brands (Marlboro, Kent, Kool and Camel) represent around 70% of the global cigarette market. But they do not make most of their sales in the USA, since American tobacco companies in general nowadays sell more of their products abroad than in the home market.
You Can Actually Die from Smoking Even If You Never Had a Cigarette in Your Life
Smoking facts reveal the shocking truth that people sometimes die from smoking even though they never lit a cigarette themselves. People who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work have a 20-30% greater risk of developing lung cancer. And this is not just a potential risk; over 7,000 non-smokers die each year in the USA from lung cancer due to secondhand smoking. Even more non-smokers, about 34,000, die each year from coronary heart disease due to secondhand smoking.
Research shows that secondhand smoke exposure is highest among children between the ages of 3 and 11, non-Hispanic blacks, people living below the poverty level and people living in rental housing. For every 10 smokers that die as a result of their nasty habit in the US, 1 non-smoker dies as a result of secondhand smoke, too.
Apart from Health Problems, Smoking Has a Number of Other Unpleasant Effects
We already mentioned the unpleasant smell, but smoking facts also reveal other potential problems, such as a dulled sense of taste and smell, which also potentially decreases enjoyment of food, social stigma and even a negative influence on one’s career. Statistics have shown that many employers prefer not to employ smokers since they are much more prone to health problems (more than 34 million working days are lost each year because of smoking-related health problems).
Research also shows that many regular smokers smoke most of their daily cigarettes at work – some up to 10 or even 20 each work day. Considering the fact that smoking one cigarette on average lasts for about 5 minutes, this means an hour or even an hour and a half lost every single work day to smoking.
Against All Odds, Smoking Actually Does Have a Couple of Benefits
Doctors, the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and almost every health-related organization in the world, tell us that smoking is bad for our health, but smoking facts reveal a surprising truth that smoking actually has a few benefits too.
A study conducted by the University of Adelaide in Australia showed that smokers are less likely to need knee-replacement surgery. But how is it even possible for smoking to affect the knees? Simply because knee-replacement surgery is common with joggers and obese people, and smokers are statistically less likely to belong to either of these two groups. Smoking also lowers the risk for Parkinson’s disease and can actually supports the effects of the heart drug called clopidogrel, which is used to inhibit blood clots in patients who suffer from coronary artery disease…
There Are More Male Smokers than Female
Smoking facts statistics show that smoking is more popular among men than women in the US – about 20% of men are smokers compared to about 15% of women. Race and/or ethnicity also have a statistical significance when talking about smoking – 26% of American Indians/Alaska Natives, 19% of the white population and 18% of the black population are smokers, while only 12% of Hispanics and 10% of Asians in the USA smoke. This is of course not a consequence of any physical attributes (such as tendency to addiction, for example), but a mere consequence of the different lifestyles of different ethnicities in the USA.
Smoking Is Expensive – But Not Only for Smokers
Smokers don’t cause financial problems only to themselves, but also to the greater community. Smoking facts show that smoking-related diseases in the US cost more than $300 billion per year – about $170 billion in direct medical care costs and about $150 billion in loss of productivity.
Each pack of cigarettes sold in the US costs the country more than $7 in medical care and loss of productivity, according to a statement from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002, but other studies show that this cost might actually be much higher – possibly over $40 per pack of cigarettes sold.
Even Though Smoking Is Expensive, Poor People Tend to Smoke More Often
Smoking statistics show that 29% of people who live below the poverty level smoke, but the percentage is only 16% among people at or above the poverty level. Since the individual’s financial situation is often also connected to education, education profiles of smokers show a similar picture. Smoking is more popular among people with lower levels of education: 24% of people with less than a high school education smoke and so do 41% of GED certificated individuals and 22% of high school graduates – on the other side, only 18% of people with associate degrees, 9% of people with undergraduate degrees and 6% of people with postgraduate degrees smoke.
Tobacco Companies Invest Huge Amounts of Money into Advertising
There have been various legal limitations on tobacco advertising in the last few decades, starting with the 1971 Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which banned tobacco advertising on TV and radio. More recently came President Obama’s Tobacco Control Act from 2010, severely limiting the marketing efforts of tobacco companies. The Act states: “audio advertisements are not permitted to contain any music or sound effects, while video advertisements are limited to static black text on a white background. Any audio soundtrack accompanying a video advertisement is limited to words only, with no music or sound effects”. Despite these limitations, tobacco companies still invest huge amounts into advertising.
And this has been a source of heated public debate in the last years, since tobacco advertising encourages young people to begin a potentially lethal addiction before they are even able to understand the risks. These concerns are confirmed by statistics showing that 90% of adult smokers started smoking by the age of 21; about half of them started before they reached 18 years of age.
Contrary to Popular Belief, Smoking Doesn’t Really Make You Look Sexy
The myth that smoking makes one look sexy has roots in the famous 1950s and 1960s tobacco marketing campaigns in the USA that greatly sexualized smoking, but the simple truth is that smoking is far from being sexy. It causes dry and leathery skin, premature wrinkles, yellow teeth, bags under the eyes, tooth decay, hair thinning, nail coloration and halitosis (bad breath), not to mention a decline in sex drive, as well as infertility and impotence. Do you still think that smoking is sexy?
Smoking and Oral Contraceptives Can Be a Very Dangerous Combination
Smoking is never a really good idea, but it is an especially bad one for women who take oral contraceptives because it greatly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure – all very serious health conditions that often lead to death. The risk increases with age (it is especially high in women over 35 years of age) and the intensity of smoking (15 or more cigarettes per day greatly increase the risk). So what should women who take oral contraceptives do? The answer is quite simple – they should stop smoking…
A Shockingly High Percentage of Women Still Smoke during Their Pregnancy
US statistics from 2010 show that 54% of pregnant smokers quit smoking by the last 3 months of pregnancy, 16% admitted smoking after delivering the baby, 23% reported smoking in the last 3 months prior to conception and 11% even admitted smoking during the whole pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy is highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives.
And what are the possible consequences of smoking during pregnancy (including secondhand smoking)? Increased risk of stillbirths, miscarriages, premature deliveries and other complications that can endanger both the baby and the mother.
Light Cigarettes Do Not Really Make That Much Difference
Lower levels of tar and nicotine in cigarettes that are labeled “mild” or “light” promise a lot, but the reality is that most smokers simply compensate lower levels of these dangerous substances by smoking more of each cigarette, smoking more cigarettes or inhaling the smoke more deeply. “Light” or “mild” cigarettes kill just like regular cigarettes do, and health experts are not enthusiastic about “organic” and “natural” cigarettes on the market either, since the lack of other additives doesn’t change the fact that tobacco kills. And it really does – millions of people each year in the world, regardless of whether they smoke “light”, “natural” or any other cigarettes…
A Healthy Lifestyle Does Not Make Up for the Negative Effects of Smoking
Many smokers believe that their nasty habit is easily counterweighted with an otherwise healthy lifestyle that includes healthy nutrition and regular physical activity. Although these things certainly are great for overall health, they do not prevent the possible negative effects that come from smoking. Research even shows that they generally don’t even reduce most health risks associated with smoking.
Believing that a nasty habit such as smoking doesn’t really hurt the health if someone lives an otherwise healthy lifestyle is thus completely untrue. Athletes, vegetarians and nutritional specialists die from smoking just as regular people do …
Just Cutting Back on Your Smoking Won’t Really Make You Any Healthier
Smoking facts reveal a very popular myth among smokers: cutting down on the number of daily cigarettes is an effective strategy for preventing health problems. It is not. It might slow down the process of hurting one’s body for some and it might even slightly decrease the risk of getting a serious smoking-related disease for some, but the most effective strategy by far is still a complete cessation.
Smokers often decide to cut back on smoking instead of stopping completely because they think it is easier, but even that might be a big lie. Research shows that most ex-smokers who quit successfully did so by quitting completely.
Quitting Smoking Can Significantly Improve Your Sex Life
Male smokers who have problems in the bedroom should forget about taking Viagra or similar medicine – quitting smoking will suffice for a better sex life in most cases. Studies show that men who quit smoking have firmer erections and achieve arousal (but not climax!) sooner than those who continue smoking. Some studies even suggest that 3 in 4 smokers suffering from erectile dysfunction stop having problems after they quit smoking.
Problems with erection do not only cause the inability to have sex or father children, but also have a broader effect on the overall quality of life, since they can cause severe emotional problems and issues in relationships. Men of the world, stop smoking!
Tobacco is Subject to Special Taxes in Most Countries of the World
There have been great improvements in preventing tobacco addiction and related health issues in many parts of the world in recent decades. One of the most efficient strategies remains subjecting tobacco markets to special taxes and consequently raising the price of cigarettes.
For example, Denmark introduced a very high tax of $4.02 per pack in 1997, but there are many countries in the world where smoking is still a big part of the national culture, causing the tax burdens to be very forgiving to the tobacco industry. One such country is Taiwan, with a tax burden of only $0.62 per pack. And how is the USA doing in this regard? Taxation on tobacco varies greatly from state to state: Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax of only $0.17 per pack, while New York’s tax is $4.35!
Smoking Facts — Facts about Smoking Summary
Smoking is a nasty habit and a potentially lethal addiction that is difficult to give up unaided. Most people fail in their first attempts of quitting, but when they succeed, they greatly decrease their risk of suffering from serious health conditions such as cancer or heart disease. In addition to these health issues, smoking also causes several non-health related problems such as social alienation, unpleasant smell and ugly skin. Nearly half a million people die from smoking in the USA each year, and more than 40,000 of those are non-smokers who die as a result of second-hand smoking. Statistically speaking, a typical US smoker is a male who started smoking prior to his 21st birthday, lives below the poverty level and has a lower level of education.