Tobacco has a negative effect
on almost every organ of the body. According to the U.S. Department of Health &
Human Services, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the
United States, resulting in more than 443,000 deaths each year. Worldwide,
recent studies have shown that tobacco is responsible for about 6 million deaths
In March 2012, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reported that,
from 1975 to 2000, nearly 800,000 deaths from lung cancer in the United States
were prevented due to declines in smoking as a result of tobacco control
programs and policies. This data was presented in the Journal of the National
Cancer Institute (NCI) and the research was funded by the NCI.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the
overall rate of cigarette smoking in adults over the age of 18 in the United
States dropped from 20.9 percent in 2005 to 17.8 percent in 2013—the lowest rate
since record keeping began in 1965. This report, published in the Morbidity and
Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on November 26, 2014, also indicated that the
number of cigerate smokers in the United States fell from 45.1 million in 2005
to 42.1 million in 2013.
A report called Smokeless Tobacco and Public Health: A Global Perspective was
released by the CDC and the National Cancer Institute in December 2014.
According to this report, more than 300 million people in at least 70 countries
use harmful smokeless tobacco products. Cigar smokers and smokeless tobacco
(chew or spit tobacco) users have similar health risks as cigarette smokers,
including oral cancer, esophageal cancer, and pancreatic cancer, as well as oral
health problems like mucosal lesions, leukoplakia, and periodontal disease.
Smokeless tobacco products also contain nicotine, and users often demonstrate
signs of dependence similar to those of cigarette smokers.
Effects of Secondhand Smoke
Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS)—or secondhand smoke—results in approximately
3,000 lung cancer deaths per year in non-smokers. Secondhand smoke is what is
given off by the end of the burning cigarette and by the smoker's exhalations.
Short-term Effects of Smoking
Short-term effects of smoking include more frequent respiratory illnesses such
as coughs, colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Among children and adolescents
exposed to secondhand smoke, rates of asthma, ear infection and lower
respiratory infections are higher.
Long-term Effects of Smoking
The long-term effects of smoking are extensive. There are numerous diseases
linked to smoking. Smoking can cause cancer of the mouth and throat and lung
cancer, and can increase the risk for stomach (gastric) cancer, kidney cancer,
bladder cancer, cervical cancer, and pancreatic cancer. About one third of all
cancers are linked to tobacco use—and 90 percent of lung cancer cases are linked
Smoking also causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, (e.g.,
emphysema, chronic bronchitis), which is severe lung damage. Smoking reduces
blood circulation and narrows blood vessels, depriving the body of oxygen and
increasing the risk for heart disease. Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand
smoke are 25 percent more likely to develop heart disease. Smoking also doubles
the risk for stoke and increases the risk for developing cataracts.
Smoking poses additional health risks for women. It increases the risk for
rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and leads to loss of bone densi, increasing the
chances of hip and spine fractures in postmenopausal women.
Women of childbearing age who smoke face higher rates of infertility and greater
risks for complications during pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy also
increases the unborn baby's health risks (e.g., premature birth, respiratory
illnesses, low birth weight). After birth, the risk for sudden infant death
syndrome doubles for babies exposed to secondhand smoke.
Children and teens are vulnerable to the hazards of smoking. Because their
bodies are not fully mature, smoking interferes with normal lung development in
those who begin smoking as children or adolescents. Young people who smoke may
become more strongly addicted to cigarettes and face an even greater risk for
developing lung cancer than those who start smoking later in life. Every day,
approximately 4,000 children under the age of 18 try a cigarette for the first
time and 1,000 become regular smokers.
teenagers who smoke are more likely to have depression or other psychological
problems. They are also more likely to engage in other dangerous behaviors, such
as using alcohol and other drugs.