Tobacco and stroke
Smoking tobacco products is a major cause of stroke,Footnote 1Footnote 2 the third leading cause of death in Canada and a leading cause of adult disability.Footnote 4
- Key facts about tobacco use and stroke
- What is a stroke?
- How does tobacco use increase the risk of stroke?
- How does quitting affect the risk of stroke?
- Health benefits of quitting tobacco use at any age
- For help to quit
Key facts about tobacco use and stroke
- The risk of stroke increases when someone's cigarette consumption increases: for every five additional cigarettes smoked per day, the risk of stroke goes up by 12%.Footnote 3
- The risk of dying from a stroke increases with the number of cigarettes smoked.Footnote 1
- In 2020, 13,695 people in Canada died from stroke.Footnote 5
- Between 18 and 36% of stroke deaths among Canadians 64 years and younger were due to smoking, research showed in 2012.Footnote 6
- More than 400,000 Canadians are living with long-term disability from stroke.Footnote 7 Over 40% have moderate to severe disability requiring intense rehabilitation and support in the community.Footnote 7
- Exposure to second-hand smoke can cause a 20 to 30% increased risk of stroke in people who do not smoke.Footnote 1
View health labels for cigarettes and little cigars.
What is a stroke?
A stroke happens when blood stops flowing to any part of the brain due to a burst or blocked blood vessel. These blood clots can obstruct blood flow.Footnote 2 The lack of oxygen to the brain, caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, causes damage to surrounding brain cells, which cannot be repaired or replaced.Footnote 8
A stroke can occur suddenly and without warning. Common symptoms include facial drooping or numbness, weakness in the arms, and slurred speech. Stroke can lead to severe disabilities, such as full or partial paralysis, loss of speech and sight, or death.
If someone survives a stroke, recovery can take months or even years. Many people never fully recover.
How does tobacco use increase the risk of stroke?
Smoking contributes to the formation of blood clots in blood vessels. Smoking also promotes the buildup of plaque along the walls of the arteries, causing the arteries to narrow. Over time, the plaque can harden. In some cases, the plaque may cause the vessel to rupture, leading to the formation of blood clots.Footnote 1Footnote 2
How does quitting reduce the risk of stroke?
When you stop smoking, your risk of stroke decreases rapidly. Five to fifteen years after quitting, your risk is the same as someone who has never smoked.Footnote 9
Quitting is one of the best ways to avoid the risk of stroke or of developing other smoking-related diseases.
People who continue to smoke after surviving a stroke are twice as likely to die from a subsequent stroke compared with those who quit or who have never smoked.Footnote 10
Health benefits of quitting tobacco use at any age
Quitting tobacco use reduces the risk of premature death, improves health, and enhances quality of life.Footnote 9 Quitting at any age is beneficial to one's health.Footnote 9 Even people who have smoked or used tobacco heavily for many years benefit from it.Footnote 2Footnote 9 Quitting is the most important thing someone who smokes can do to improve their health.
Read more about the benefits of quitting smoking.
For help to quit
Free quit counselling, coaching and other services in your province or territory
- Footnote 1
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.
- Footnote 2
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2004.
- Footnote 3
Pan B, Xiao J, Liu J, Shaohong Q, Qiuping Z, Mingwo P. The relationship between smoking and stroke: A meta-analysis. Medicine. 2019;98(12):e14872. Doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000014872.
- Footnote 4
Stroke in Canada: Highlights from the Canadian Chronic Disease Surveillance System Cat.: HP35-88/2017E-PDF, 2017.
- Footnote 5
Statistics Canada. Table 13-10-0147-01 Deaths, by cause, Chapter IX: Diseases of the circulatory system (I00 to I99). https://doi.org/10.25318/1310014701-eng
- Footnote 6
Dobrescu A, Bhandari A, Sutherland G, Dinh T. The costs of tobacco use in Canada, 2012. The Conference Board of Canada; 2017. https://www.conferenceboard.ca/temp/3bcfb009-01c7-4a14-abd4-8d6d328218e2/9185_Costs-Tobacco-Use_RPT.pdf
- Footnote 7
Heart & Stroke. 2017 Stroke Report. Heart and Stroke; 2017. https://www.heartandstroke.ca/-/media/pdf-files/canada/stroke-report/hsf-stroke-report-2017-en.ashx?la=en&hash=11E6299AD113AB533EC81D172E4C46C120A42D90
- Footnote 8
Saver J. Time is brain – quantified. Stroke. 2005;37(1):263-266. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.STR.0000196957.55928.ab
- Footnote 9
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking Cessation: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2020.
- Footnote 10
Myint PK, Welch AA, Bingham SA, Luben RN, Wareham NJ, Day NE, Khaw K. Smoking predicts long-term mortality in stroke: The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC)-Norfolk prospective population study. Preventive Medicine. 2006;42:128-131. doi:10.1016/J.YPMED.2005.11.014.
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