Risks of smoking
Smoking is linked to more than two dozen diseases and conditions, including cancer and heart disease. Most of these start to reverse after you quit smoking. Sometimes the benefits of quitting begin in a matter of hours.
Health risks for people who smoke
All people who smoke are at increased risk for:
- problems with their heart and blood vessels
- certain types of cancers
- lung and respiratory problems
- other health issues
- premature death
Female smokers are also at increased risk for:
- cancer of the cervix
- problems with periods (menstrual problems)
- problems getting pregnant (fertility problems)
- premature delivery
- having a low birth weight baby
Male smokers are also at increased risk for:
- problems with erections (impotence/erectile dysfunction)
Each day, 100 Canadians die of a smoking-related illness.
The good news? Life expectancy improves after you quit.
Risks from other types of tobacco
Cigar and pipe smokers experience the same types of health problems as cigarette smokers.
Smokeless tobacco (including chewing tobacco and snuff) also contains many of the same harmful and addictive substances as cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. Smokeless tobacco is a major cause of cancer of the mouth and throat. It can also cause serious dental health problems, including receding gums, tooth loss, and discoloured teeth and gums.
Of the more than 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke, hundreds are toxic including hydrogen cyanide, lead, acetone, arsenic, and formaldehyde. At least 70 of these chemicals are carcinogens (known to cause cancer).
Health risks from second-hand smoke
Second-hand smoke is the combination of smoke coming directly from a burning tobacco product and the smoke exhaled by a person smoking.
People exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk for:
- heart problems
- lung cancer
- breathing problems (like more severe asthma)
- excessive coughing
- throat irritation
- premature death
Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk for:
- respiratory illnesses
- more frequent and more severe asthma attacks (among children with asthma)
- ear infections
- phlegm, wheezing, and breathlessness
- decreased level of lung function
Children are especially at risk from second-hand smoke, because their breathing (respiratory) and immune systems are still developing.
Pregnant women exposed to second-hand smoke during pregnancy are at increased risk of problems with their health and the health of their unborn baby. They are also at increased risk of having a low birth weight baby.
Infants exposed to second-hand smoke or whose mother smoked during pregnancy are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
It's not just people who smoke who are at risk. Breathing in second-hand smoke causes over 800 deaths in Canadian non-smokers from lung cancer and heart disease every year.
What you can do
Protect your health, and the health of everyone around you!
- The best solution is to quit smoking.
- Keep your home and car 100% smoke-free.
- If you are pregnant, quit smoking and stay away from second-hand smoke.
- Limit your smoking to places where others aren't exposed to your smoke.
- Don't smoke around children, pregnant women, and people with heart or breathing problems.
Call the pan-Canadian, toll-free quitline at 1-866-366-3667 or see the quit smoking website for your province or territory.
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