The Hazards of Cigarette Smoking

Cigarette Smoking Causes Disease, Illness and Premature Death

Smoking is a big risk factor for COPD.
Smoking is a big risk factor for COPD. Johannes Simon/Getty Images

It is a well-known fact that cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health. Nearly every cancer is associated with an increased risk among smokers. It's an irony of sorts, then, why about 14% of U.S. residents are current smokers. The hazards of smoking are numerous, affecting even the unborn child as it sits innocently in its mother's womb.

For those with even the slightest desire to quit, the following cigarette smoking facts may help:

  • According to the American Lung Association, cigarette smoking is the most important source of disease and illness and/or premature death worldwide.
  • Each year, 450,000 Americans lose their lives to smoking-related illnesses. This represents 1 in 5 deaths, making it the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

Also according to the American Lung Association:

  • Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals - 69 of these are known to cause cancer.
  • Smoking is responsible 90% of cancer deaths and more than 80% of COPD deaths.
  • Among those who still smoke, chronic lung disease accounts for 73% of all smoking-related illnesses. In former smokers, chronic lung disease accounts for 50% of all smoking-related conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • On average smokers die ten years earlier than non-smokers.
  • Approximately 16 million Americans have at least one smoking-related illness.
  • For every death in the U.S., there are 30 other people with at least one serious health condition linked to smoking.
  • Smoking is associated with erectile dysfunction in men.

According to the American Cancer Society, smoking can lead to a number of pregnancy problems including increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and SIDS.

According to the CDC:

  • Parents who smoke can create health problems for their children, including exacerbation of asthma, increased frequency of colds and/or ear infections, and ​sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Every year, secondhand smoke is responsible for 7,300 lung cancer deaths and 34,000 heart disease deaths in the United States alone.
  • Parental smoking leads to more than 200,000 asthma episodes and 709,000 visits for ear infections.

Tobacco advertising plays a significant role in the addiction process as it encourages young people to begin a lifelong relationship with cigarettes before they are even old enough to understand the impact that smoking has on their health.

As of Dec. 20, 2019, the new legal minimum age is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S.

Smoking cessation is an important aspect of disease prevention in adults and young people alike. Your risk of heart disease decreases significantly after just 1 year of cessation. Within 2 years your risk of stroke may be as low a non-smoker’s. Risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder decrease by 50% within 5 years and risk of lung cancer decreases by half in 10 years,

Currently, there are medications approved by the FDA to help people quit. Because quitting smoking often requires multiple attempts, stop smoking aids coupled with either individual, group or telephone counseling are highly recommended to increase the chances of a successful quit attempt.

Edited by Pat Bass, MD

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Article Sources

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults in the United States. Updated November 18, 2019.

  2. American Lung Association. Smoking Facts. Updated August 14, 2019.

  3. American Lung Association. Health Effects of Smoking. Updated August 7, 2019.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking & Tobacco Use Fast Facts. Updated November 15, 2019.

  5. American Cancer Society. Health Risks of Smoking Tobacco. Updated November 15, 2018.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Secondhand Smoke (SHS) Facts. Updated January 17, 2018.

  7. American Cancer Society. Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time. Updated November 1, 2018.

  8. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Want to Quit Smoking? FDA-Approved Products Can Help. Updated December 12, 2017.