Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) Problems Caused by Smoking

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 40 million adults within the United States smoke cigarettes, and results in nearly 480,000 deaths a year. That means that one in five deaths is a result of cigarette smoking. There are an additional 16 million people that suffer from smoking-related chronic illnesses. As a result, the annual healthcare-related costs for adults approximate $170 billion in the United States alone. These are costs that are caused by harmful personal habits of the individual. Additionally, there is an additional $156 billion in lost productivity as well as $5.6 billion in lost productivity due to secondhand smoke exposure.

Doctor examining sore throat of senior patient
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Because smoking has been proven to have such a negative impact on public health, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) continues to provide mandates regarding cigarette packaging and labeling in an effort to warn consumers about the risks. Despite lawsuits brought against the FDA by tobacco companies, the United States is making anti-smoking warnings more prominent to consumers and non-consumer alike. Health risks related to smoking include:

  • Head and Neck cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Other types of cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Erectile dysfunction

Regardless of the smoking-related illness, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. As such, many employers have started to charge their employees higher health insurance premiums depending upon their smoking status. Of course, one of the main disorders caused by smoking is cancer. Lung cancer is not the only cancer related to smoking. For example, cancers of the head and neck can be caused by smoking including oral (oropharyngeal), laryngeal, esophageal. and pharyngeal cancer.

Why Smoking Causes Cancer

Smoking causes cancer because of the tobacco smoke, which contains more than 7,000 chemicals that have been identified in tobacco smoke. Most of the 600 ingredients in cigarettes are harmful (ammonia, carbon monoxide, cyanide, and hydrogen) with at least 69 being carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Exposure to carcinogenic substances increases your risk of developing cancer. The health risks don't stop here, however, in addition to cancer there are many other health problems associated with smoking.

Noncancerous ENT Disorders Related to Smoking

There are many ENT disorders that can be caused by smoking. Some are more irritations than health risks, but all may impact your quality of life. It is important to remember, that the list below may occur from secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke even if you do not yourself smoke. Children who live in homes where parents or other individuals smoke indoors are especially at risk for these disorders.

Is It Too Late for You to Quit?

While not having ever smoked presents the greatest health benefits, quitting now both increases your current health status as well as reduces your risk substantially for developing ENT disorders related to smoking. Quitting has multiple health benefits. After you have quit smoking, your health will continue to improve and your risk of developing related illnesses will drop. While it's never too late to stop, it is important to realize that there is not a “safe” amount of tobacco smoke exposure. Depending on genetics and other factors some individuals can develop health problems after smoking for a very short period of time.

If you would like help in your quest to quit smoking, there are many resources available online such as smokefree.gov that can help you along your way to a smoke-free life.

8 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.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Tobacco Use: Data and Statistics.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Tobacco Use: Fast Facts.

  4. Xu X, Bishop EE, Kennedy SM, Simpson SA, Pechacek TF. Annual healthcare spending attributable to cigarette smoking: an update. Am J Prev Med. 2015;48(3):326-33. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2014.10.012

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Economic Trends in Tobacco.

  6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Labeling and Warning Statements for Tobacco Products.

  7. American Cancer Society. Health Risks of Smoking Tobacco.

  8. American Lung Association. What's in a cigarette?

Additional Reading

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.