Smoking and Strokes

Smoking is a major cause of stroke, a brain injury caused by a burst or blocked blood vessel.Footnote 1 Read more about strokes…


The risk of stroke is about 2 to 4 times greater among smokers than among those who never smoked.Footnote 2,Footnote 3 This risk increases with the amount smoked per day.Footnote 2

There were 13,981 deaths from stroke in Canada in 2007.Footnote 4 Research has shown that in 2002, more than a third of deaths from stroke among Canadians under the age of 65 years were due to smoking.Footnote 5

Smokers who survive a stroke and do not quit smoking are at a high risk of dying from a subsequent stroke - more than twice the risk of those who quit or who have never smoked.Footnote 6

People exposed to second hand smoke  may also have an increased risk of stroke.Footnote 7


These health warning messages for cigarettes and little cigars address stroke.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a brain injury resulting from a burst or blocked blood vessel. This results in a lack of oxygen to the brain which causes permanent damage.

The symptoms for stroke develop suddenly and without warning, and can lead to severe disabilities, such as full or partial paralysis, loss of speech or loss of sight.

How does smoking increase the risk of stroke?

Some chemicals contained in tobacco smoke Footnote 8,Footnote 9 contribute to the progressive hardening of the arteries (also called atherosclerosis) caused by fatty deposits in the arteries, as well as the scarring and thickening of the artery wall. Inflammation of the artery wall and the development of blood clots can obstruct blood flow. When this occurs in the brain it is called a stroke.Footnote 1Footnote 2

The benefits of quitting

When people stop smoking, the risk of stroke decreases rapidly. Two to five years after quitting, the risk of stroke drops by more than 90% and can even reach that of someone who never smoked. Footnote 2,Footnote 3

Quitting is more effective than other measures to avoid the development of stroke 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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