Addiction Alcohol Addiction The Dangers of Smoking for Alcoholics By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 13, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Armeen Poor, MD Medically reviewed by Armeen Poor, MD Armeen Poor, MD, is a board-certified pulmonologist and intensivist. He specializes in pulmonary health, critical care, and sleep medicine. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Stefan Obermeir/Getty Images Smoking tobacco poses dangerous heath risks for anyone, but it is even more hazardous for alcoholics—even those who are in recovery. Because years of heavy drinking damages or weakens the body's systems, alcoholics are more susceptible to the dangers of tobacco use more so than other smokers. Tobacco-related disease is two to four times more prevalent among alcoholics than that of the general population. Alcoholics who smoke are less likely to die from an alcoholic-related illness than they are a tobacco-related disease. Those who suffer from alcoholism and have a smoking habit have a 51% chance of death, compared with alcoholics who are nonsmokers who have a 34% chance of death. As such, many researchers have ascertained that smoking cessation therapy is vital for alcohol recovery treatment programs. What Are the Dangers of Smoking? Probably the biggest fear for all smokers is the risk of getting lung cancer, and there is a good reason: male smokers are 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer—and female smokers 13 times more likely—compared to non-smokers. Smoking so-called "light" cigarettes do not significantly reduce the risk of lung cancer. Lung cancer, however, is not the biggest health threat for those who smoke. The number one killer in the United States for smokers is heart disease, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. Putting Toxins Into Your Body When you smoke cigarettes, you are putting toxins from the tobacco and the chemicals used to make cigarettes into your bloodstream. Those toxins contribute to the development of atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is caused by deposits of fatty plaques and the thickening and scarring of the artery walls. When the artery wall becomes inflamed or blood clots develop, blood flow can be obstructed and cause heart attacks or strokes. Smoking causes atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries, which results in coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. Smoking cigarettes have been linked with sudden cardiac deaths in both men and women. In recent years, it has also been associated with an increased risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Because smoking reduces circulation by narrowing the blood vessels, it can increase the risk of developing peripheral vascular disease, obstruction of the large arteries in the arms and legs, particularly among women. Leading Cause of Strokes The third leading cause of death in the U.S. is a stroke, and cigarette smoking has been found to be a major cause of strokes. Smokers are two to four times more likely to have a stroke than non-smokers. 599 Ingredients and Additives in Cigarettes Smoking as the Cause of Other Cancers Although lung cancer may be the biggest cancer threat, smokers are at risk for developing all kinds of cancers. The carcinogens found in tobacco smoke damage the genes that control the growth of cells in the body, causing them to reproduce too rapidly or grow abnormally. Smoking is associated with an increased risk of developing the following: Esophageal cancerStomach cancerKidney cancerBladder cancerCancer of the mouthCancer of the throatAcute myeloid leukemiaCancer of the cervixCancer of the larynxPancreatic cancer Smoking's Respiratory Health Effects Of course, lung cancer is not the only threat to the respiratory health of smokers. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is another leading cause of death in the U.S., and although nonsmokers can get COPD, an estimated 85% to 90% of COPD cases are linked to smoking. Approximately 15.3 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Many people may have COPD without even knowing it. Female smokers are 13 times more likely—and male smokers 12 times more likely—to die from COPD than those who have never smoked, according to the American Lung Association. Smokers can also suffer from chronic coughing and wheezing; upper and lower respiratory tract infections; and declining lung function. Effects on Reproductive Health There are additional risks for female smokers who plan to have children or who are already pregnant: smoking makes it more difficult to get pregnant, and research reveals an increased risk of infertility for women who smoke. Unfortunately, studies show that only about 23% of women smokers who get pregnant quit smoking during their pregnancies. This can result in the following problems: Pregnancy complicationsPremature birthLow-birth-weight infantsStillbirthInfant deathSudden Infant Death SyndromePlacenta previaPlacental abruption Reversing the Effects of Smoking There are many other health risks associated with smoking that is not necessarily life-threatening. Smoking has been found to harm almost every organ of the body, causing many diseases and generally reducing the overall health of smokers. The good news is that quitting smoking can immediately begin to reduce some of these increased health risks, and the benefits of quitting increase the longer you stop smoking. Your risk of heart attack and stroke are immediately reduced as soon as you quit. Former smokers have the same stroke risk as nonsmokers after 5 years, in most cases, and by 15 years, the risk for heart disease is the same as that of a nonsmoker. 12 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Shield KD, Parry C, Rehm J. Chronic diseases and conditions related to alcohol use. Alcohol Res. 2013;35(2):155-173. Apollonio D, Philipps R, Bero L. Interventions for tobacco use cessation in people in treatment for or recovery from substance abuse. Cochrane Libr. 2012;12:1-10. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010274 Schane RE, Ling PM, Glantz SA. Health effects of light and intermittent smoking: a review. Circulation. 2010;121(13):1518-1522. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.109.904235 Siasos G, Tsigkou V, Kokkou E, et al. Smoking and atherosclerosis: mechanisms of disease and new therapeutic approaches. Curr Med Chem. 2014;21(34):3936-3948. doi:10.2174/092986732134141015161539 Aune D, Schlesinger S, Norat T, Riboli E. Tobacco smoking and the risk of sudden cardiac death: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Eur J Epidemiol. 2018;33(6):509-521. doi:10.1007/s10654-017-0351-y American College of Cardiology. Smoking Significantly Increases Risk for Peripheral Artery Disease in Women. 2011. Xue J, Yang S, Seng S. Mechanisms of Cancer Induction by Tobacco-Specific NNK and NNN. Cancers (Basel). 2014;6(2):1138-1156. doi:10.3390/cancers6021138 American Lung Association. What Causes COPD. American Lung Association. How Serious Is COPD. Oboni JB, Marques-Vidal P, Bastardot F, Vollenweider P, Waeber G. Impact of smoking on fertility and age of menopause: a population-based assessment. BMJ Open. 2016;6(11):e012015. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012015 Berlin I, Golmard JL, Jacob N, Tanguy ML, Heishman SJ. Cigarette Smoking During Pregnancy: Do Complete Abstinence and Low Level Cigarette Smoking Have Similar Impact on Birth Weight? Nicotine Tob Res. 2017;19(5):518-524. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntx033 Shah RS, Cole JW. Smoking and stroke: the more you smoke the more you stroke. Expert Rev Cardiovasc Ther. 2010;8(7):917-932. doi:10.1586/erc.10.56 Additional Reading American Lung Association. Preventing COPD. Aune D, Schlesinger S, Norat T, Riboli E. Tobacco smoking and the risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):14786. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-32100-2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease and Stroke. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking During Pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. Smoking & Tobacco Use. National Cancer Institute. Tobacco. By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.