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Risks Associated With Smoking Cigarettes

Harry Mills, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 14th 2016

Since smoking cessation (stopping smoking) can be an extremely difficult process, understanding exactly how smoking harms your body can help keep you motivated to kick the habit. Although you may not think about the risks every time you smoke, smoking is not only dangerous, it is positively life-threatening. If you continue to smoke or use smokeless tobacco products, you are likely shaving years off your lifespan and setting yourself up for serious health problems.

Cigarettes

cigarette packageAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking is currently responsible for more than 5 million deaths worldwide each year. They predict that by 2020, the worldwide death toll from smoking will reach 10 million each year, causing nearly 18 percent of all deaths in the developed world.

To help you to understand the magnitude of smoking-related deaths, we can compare them with other sources of premature death. For example, the number of people who die from using tobacco is greater than the combined total number of people who die from murder, suicide, car accidents, fire, AIDS, and using alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. Tobacco use also accounts for one-third of all cancers. Smokers die from cancer at a rate that is twice as high as nonsmokers, and heavy smokers die at a rate that is four times higher than nonsmokers. Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer of both men and women, and smoking is associated with nearly 90 percent of lung cancer cases. In addition, smoking is a leading cause of cancers of the mouth, tongue, throat, larynx (voice box), esophagus, stomach, pancreas, cervix, kidney, ureter, and bladder.

Cancer is not the only disease caused by smoking. Smoking also causes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and worsens asthma. Cigarette smoking substantially increases the risk of coronary heart disease, including stroke, heart attack, aneurysm and vascular disease. It also contributes to peptic ulcers, varicose veins, osteoporosis, periodontal disease, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, allergies, and impotence. The bottom line is that continuing to smoke puts you at risk of contracting a serious, life-threatening illness. If you contract any one of the diseases listed above, your quality of life will deteriorate and you will shorten your life span.

Secondhand Smoke

Smoking is dangerous, not only for the person holding the cigarette, but also for the people who share their environment. The World Health Organization states that more than 600,000 deaths each year are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

Secondhand smoke is dangerous for anyone who comes into contact with it, but it is especially dangerous for unborn babies and small children. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of infant mortality, premature delivery, and babies with low birth weight. Tobacco smoke contains high levels of nicotine and carbon monoxide, which interfere with the oxygen supply to the fetus, and cause the developmental delays often seen in the fetuses and infants of mothers who smoke. Smoking around infants and children has also been linked to sudden death syndrome and to a rise in respiratory illnesses, including an increased risk of developing asthma and an increase in the symptoms of asthma in children who already have the disease.

 

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Woah - Happily A Non-Smoker - Jun 1st 2010

Thanks for the information.  I'm doing a last minute heath summative, and the info really helps.   Thanks a bunch :)

wow - tim - Apr 30th 2010

These comments span three years.  I can't believe this article opened people's eyes to the dangers of smoking.  Not that it doesn't have good information, but come on people,  have you been under a rock for 40 years.  It has been years now that the schools and science have been telling the population that this stuff is deadly.  Why do some never learn?  My guess,  the human cost, according to some, still does not outweigh the money through sales, taxes etc.  Sad.

thanks - Caili - Dec 21st 2009

helped me out for a project [:

Amazing - Gal - Oct 31st 2009

my mum was pregnant and i told her not to smoke and she listened to me then she had a cute baby girl

Smoking - - Oct 28th 2009

My dad and step dad smoke and both of them say to me it is so hard to quit because it is so addictive and what do i say, well you shouldn't have started in the first place so it isn't my fault anyway now they are both trying to quit but just can't seem to do it.

 

so stupid and disgusting - - Apr 4th 2009

This helped out so much for my school project. I knew smoking is so stupid and disgusting, but I didn't realize how many negative effects it had!

bibliography - - Jan 25th 2009

when was this site published

Editor's Note: This article was published Apr 26th 2005.  The date is noted at the bottom of the article.  

Reality - Allan N Schwartz - Dec 17th 2008

Just for the sake of clarification, the relationship between smoking and it's ill effects on health is no longer a theory or even a correlation. Rather, smoking is now proven beyond any shadow of a doubt to cause all types of cancer, including to the mouth, throat, lungs, breasts, etc. Statistics are no longer needed for this issue as there is no longer one iota of doubt. If someone chooses to smoke then they are risking their health. If they choose to smoke with others near them, they are risking the health of those people through second hand smoke. If pregnant women choose to smoke then they risk having low birth babies.

Sorry,

Dr. Schwartz

all I see is stats - dent student - Dec 17th 2008

Do you have any research done on this topic, all i see is stats.

A study for example showing the link between smoking and the ill-effects to the oral health of a target population, for example in my study Maori women of New Zealand.

asignment - sillybilly - Apr 24th 2008

omg im doing an assignment for school as well and just so happens its for science thanks guys

project for school - sam - Mar 16th 2008

im doing a project for school and this really helped me out thanks

Quit - - Mar 7th 2008

If your going to smoke then I quess you will have to pay the price. Smoking not only effects you but the characters around you.

                        QUUIT SMOKING

CONCERNED NON-SMOKER - STEPHEN ZALESKI - Dec 13th 2007

Your article was very interesting.  It made me aware of some of the more obscere dangers with smoking.  I am a non-smoker and I sometimes enjoy playing poker in some smoking bars, so I am a bit concerned about the effects of second hand smoke.  I usually ask the smokers to blow their smoke in other directions.  The attitude among smokers is truly amazing.  They are still living in the 1950s or 1960s when people could smoke anywhere.  It drives me crazy seeing how ignorant people are about smoking.  There have been warnings for over 40 years and people continue to live in a cloud, literally.  I live in Florida where I hope someday, smoking will be banned in all public places, including bars.

 

Richard - sassy - Sep 30th 2007
Richard you are a moron.  How could you think of harming people like that.  How would you feel if someone blew secondhand smoke into your children's face or their mother?  Wouldn't feel so good would it.  That is what you are doing when you blow secondhand smoke into the faces of others.  Grow up man.

I hadn't realized - Richard - Aug 21st 2007

I hadn't realized how much damage smoking does. But now, after 27 years of living, this artical has enlightened me. I never knew I could murder people without going to jail for it. I am going to 7/11 to buy my first pack right now! I cannot wait to blow my smoke outside crowded movie theatres and in crowded elevators.. Thank you.

Editor's Note: Your sarcasm about the dangers of cigarettes doesn't lessen the actual danger associated with their use. 

Missed some diseases... - Joe - Jun 22nd 2007

One problem people don't know about is irritable bowel. For some people, it is brought on by smokers. Ironically, it takes 3-7 days for smoke toxins to accumulate in the colon (and also clear) from ingested mucus which contains the cigarette toxins. Once started, the colon remains inflamed until the mucus is flushed.

You can have a million doctors see you, nobody will figure it out. But I experimentally have...every time i have this problem...i pop a guaifenesin pill (extended release). Every time, I have no confidence it can work. It's now worked some 20 times. Finally, after studying for nursing classes, I know why it works, its similar to ulcertative colititis. The colon fights back by producing tons of mucus, thus the toxins stay there. The only way to stop the colon on overdrive is to flush it. Also, other symptoms include headaches, dizzyness, sensitivity to heat.  

Also mentioned but not elaborated is that people who smoke have lowered defences, so HIV is much more easily transmissible. For people with HIV, TB is the #1 killer, which is a lung disease, so smoking (2ndhand or otherwise) is extremely dangerous for these people.

trying to quit - davis - May 9th 2007
am motivated than ever to quit now. i have been trying to quit now for a long time. i believe now i have the most important reson to quit, to preserve my life and health. hope to get some help if possible

Quitter - Eileen - Jan 9th 2007
Today is my second day giving up smoking. I have been a smoker for 7 years straight. This information is going to help me get through today! Thanks.

WOW! - kathy - Dec 1st 2006
My dad smokes and now Irealize how much damage he does to himself!

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