How Smoking Harms Your Health

January 2024

You probably know that smoking is the main cause of lung cancer. But it may still be surprising to learn that smoking causes 90% of all lung cancer deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And you may not realize that cigarette smoking can harm your health in many other ways. In fact, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disability, disease, and death in the U.S.

Health conditions caused by smoking

Smoking affects nearly every organ in your body. The damage it does can affect your daily life, how long you live, and your overall quality of life. According to the CDC, here are some common and serious health conditions that smoking can cause.

Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, at least 69 of which cause cancer, according to the American Lung Association.

Lung cancer isn’t the only type of cancer increased by smoking, which contributes to one out of every three cancer deaths in the U.S. Smoking can cause cancer in the

  • Bladder and blood
  • Cervix
  • Colon and rectum and esophagus
  • Kidney and ureters and larynx
  • Liver
  • Oropharynx (throat, tongue, soft palate, and tonsils)
  • Other parts of your respiratory system, including the trachea and bronchus
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach

If you smoke, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is 30% to 40% higher than if you didn’t smoke. If you have diabetes, smoking can make it harder to control your disease.

Heart disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Smoking is one of the main risk factors for developing heart disease.

The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the structure and function of your heart and blood vessels. Smoking increases the risk of atherosclerosis, a dangerous buildup of plaque in your arteries. This can lead to heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

There’s no safe amount of smoking. You can develop early signs of heart disease from smoking just five cigarettes a day.

Infertility and pregnancy problems
Women who smoke can have trouble getting – and staying – pregnant. Men who smoke risk affecting their sperm, which can reduce fertility and lead to miscarriages and birth defects.

Smoking during pregnancy increases risk for

  • Early (preterm) delivery
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Low birth weight
  • Orofacial clefts in infants
  • Stillbirth

Both maternal smoking and secondhand smoke during pregnancy can increase your child’s risk of developing asthma by 30%.

Lung disease
Smoking damages your airways and alveoli, the air sacs found in your lungs. Along with lung cancer, smoking increases your risk of several respiratory diseases, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People who smoke are 12 to 13 times more likely to die from COPD than people who don’t smoke. Smoking causes 8 of 10 COPD-related deaths.

Other health conditions
Smoking can make it hard for your body to recover when you’re sick because smoking increases inflammation in your body and affects your immune system.

Smoking can also increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and certain eye diseases, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. It can affect your bone and dental health too.

When you smoke, you can also hurt those around you. In adults, secondhand smoke can cause stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer. In infants, secondhand smoke increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. In children, it increases the risk of middle ear disease, respiratory infections, and slowed lung growth.

Get help quitting

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. It can even help you live up to 10 years longer.

Most people who want to quit smoking need help to quit. For many people, it may take several tries before they find something that helps. There are resources to help you stop, including

  • 1-800-QUIT-NOW: Free confidential coaching
  • The Freedom From Smoking program from the American Lung Association.
  • The quitSTART app, a free smartphone app from the National Cancer Institute’s
  • SmokefreeTXT, a 6- to 8-week program from To sign up, text QUIT to 47848.

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