Smoking Leads to High Blood Pressure

Effect on Your Cardiovascular Health and the Impact of Quitting

Smoking causes hypertension (high blood pressure) both in the short term and over a long period of time. This puts young and older smokers at higher risk of developing high blood pressure when compared to those who do not smoke.

High blood pressure leads to higher than normal pressure on the walls of your arteries. Over time, this can damage them and put you at higher risk for stroke, heart disease, heart attack, and kidney failure. Keeping a normal blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg for adults is recommended.

This article explains high blood pressure symptoms and how smoking causes immediately higher pressures while also contributing to the development of chronic high blood pressure. It also explains how quitting can help to reduce the risk.

Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressures

Verywell / JR Bee

Smoking and Blood Pressure Effects

A longitudinal study of nearly 29,000 people ages 36 to 80 found that smoking not only raises blood pressure over time but also puts you at higher risk of developing atherosclerosis, a chronic and progressive disease in which plaques build up in the walls of arteries. The study cites smoking as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular Effects of Smoking 

Cigarette smoking is a major preventable cause of premature cardiovascular disease, with the risk particularly high in people with high blood pressure. Cigarette smoking increases the likelihood of:

Nicotine, the addictive chemical found in combustible cigarettes and other tobacco products, has been found to immediately raise blood pressure through its short-term effects on the sympathetic nervous system. Therefore all people, especially those who already have hypertension, should quit smoking as soon as possible.

Many people, including cigarette smokers, are unaware that they have high blood pressure because the symptoms, when there are any, are nonspecific and therefore can be attributed to many other medical conditions.

High blood pressure symptoms may include:

When to Call 911 for Help

Certain symptoms of high blood pressure, including shortness of breath, chest pain, or sudden, severe headache, may signal a life-threatening condition. Call 911 right away if you experience these symptoms.

Smoking and Related Health Risks

Because smoking causes high blood pressure, this may put you at higher risk of developing:

Other complications include:

Additionally, researchers have identified drug interactions with tobacco smoking, including Clozaril (clozapine), Zyprexa (olanzapine), and the asthma drug Theo-24 (theophylline).

This is true of many drugs metabolized (processed in the body) through CYP1A2 enzyme activity, including some drugs used to treat high blood pressure like Inderal LA(propanolol).

Does Quitting Smoking Lower Blood Pressure?

Quitting smoking along with other lifestyle changes can help to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of a stroke. In some cases, you may be more at risk of developing high blood pressure if you smoke but also have high cholesterol levels, an obesity diagnosis, or a family history that makes you genetically predisposed.

Other lifestyle changes may be needed to reduce these risks. These changes include:

  • Eating a low-sodium diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol intake

Smoking also increases your risk of other conditions like lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and emphysema, so the health benefits of quitting are significant.

Quitting early in life is best to avoid irreversible damage to blood vessels, but it is never too late to quit for a longtime smoker, too.

How to Quit Smoking

The most effective way to prevent hypertension is to eliminate unhealthy habits like smoking. Not only does smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke raise your blood pressure, but it also puts you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.

The only way to be sure that you are not being negatively impacted by smoking is to avoid it altogether. Successful smoking cessation (quitting) often includes:

  • Being focused on your motivation, such as listing reasons to quit
  • Making a plan and enlisting support from family and friends
  • Preparing ahead to use medications such as the nicotine patch
  • Having a strategy for dealing with withdrawal symptoms

Although much progress has been made, far too many young people use tobacco. Even more troubling, the rates of decline for smokeless tobacco have stalled or risen as of late. This is of particular concern because nicotine addiction can prolong tobacco use and lead to severe health complications.

As a result, the medical and public health communities cannot emphasize enough the importance of discouraging all forms of tobacco use in young people. 


Lung cancer and emphysema typically come to mind when considering the health risks of smoking tobacco, but high blood pressure also is high on the list. Smoking causes an immediate blood pressure rise even in people who aren't diagnosed with hypertension, while also contributing to chronic high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, in turn, elevates the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other health conditions. You may face even higher risk if you have other risk factors, such as high cholesterol levels or a lack of exercise.

Choosing to quit smoking and modifying other lifestyle factors can make a difference. Speak to your healthcare provider about how best to quit and any help you'll need to succeed.

A Word From Verywell

High blood pressure is often called a silent killer because of the absence of symptoms. Smoking affects your blood pressure and is a significant risk factor, so make a point of avoiding tobacco use altogether.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does nicotine alone raise blood pressure?

    Nicotine is the primary cause of high blood pressure when you smoke. This is because of the chemical response that nicotine causes in your body. But cigarette smoke also contains other chemicals, and more research is needed to understand how it affects blood pressure.

  • How many cigarettes a day is heavy smoking?

    Definitions may vary, but heavy smoking is generally defined as 20 or more cigarettes a day. That compares with 10 to 19 cigarettes for moderate smokers and less than 10 for light smokers.

  • What happens after one week of not smoking?

    Within minutes and hours of not smoking, your heart rate decreases and the carbon monoxide level in your body drops to normal. It won't be long until your lung function begins to improve. You also may experience nicotine withdrawal and side effects, but the benefits outweigh these risks.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  8. Freitas SRS, Alvim RO. Smoking and blood pressure phenotypes: New perspective for an old problem. Am J Hypertens. 2017 Jun 1;30(6):554-555. doi:10.1093/ajh/hpx039.

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  10. American Lung Association. Benefits of Quitting.

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By Shamard Charles, MD, MPH
Shamard Charles, MD, MPH is a public health physician and journalist. He has held positions with major news networks like NBC reporting on health policy, public health initiatives, diversity in medicine, and new developments in health care research and medical treatments.