Smoking and Heart Disease

Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease, the most common condition of heart disease.Footnote 1 Read more about What is heart disease?


The risk of coronary heart disease increases with both the number of years smoked and the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Even people who smoke fewer than 5 cigarettes per day are at an increased risk of this condition.Footnote 1,Footnote 2,Footnote 3,Footnote 4 

There were 36,860 deaths from coronary heart disease in Canada in 2007.Footnote 5 Research has shown that, in 2002, smoking was responsible for almost half of all deaths from coronary heart disease among Canadians under the age of 45 years.Footnote 6

Smokers are up to 4 times more likely to have a sudden cardiac death than are non-smokers.Footnote 7,Footnote 8

People exposed to second-hand smoke are also at increased risk of coronary heart disease.Footnote 9


These health warning messages address heart disease for cigarettes and little cigars.

What is heart disease?

Heart disease refers to a number of conditions affecting the structure and function of the heart. Coronary heart disease, the most common condition, occurs when blood vessels of the heart are narrowed or blocked, starving it of blood. It can cause chest pain (also known as angina), shortness of breath and a heart attack, which may result in sudden cardiac death.

Treatment of coronary heart disease aims to improve blood flow to the heart. Types of treatment include lifestyle changes such as smoking cessation and exercise, drug treatment, and interventions such as angioplasty or heart surgery.

How does smoking increase the risk of heart disease?

Some of the toxic emissions Footnote 10,Footnote 11 contribute to hardening of the arteries (also called atherosclerosis) and to a stiffening of the heart blood vessels. These make the heart work harder, which can lead to heart attacks.Footnote 1

The benefits of quitting

After quitting, a former smoker's risk of coronary heart disease starts to decrease. Within a year, the risk is reduced by about half. The benefits increase over time and, after 15 years, the risk of developing coronary heart disease is similar to that of someone who has never smoked.Footnote 12,Footnote 13,Footnote 14

A smoker who quits after receiving coronary artery bypass surgery reduces their risk of ending up in hospital again for heart disease.Footnote 15

Among smokers who have coronary heart disease, quitting reduces the risk of dying from this condition.Footnote 12,Footnote 16

Quit Now is more effective than other measures to avoid the development of heart disease and other smoking-related diseases.

Need help to quit? Call the pan-Canadian quitline toll-free at 1-866-366-3667.

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