Addiction Nicotine Use Smoking-Related Diseases Health Risks and Diseases of Smoking By Terry Martin Terry Martin Facebook Twitter Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction. Learn about our editorial process Updated on November 16, 2022 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 Sanja Jelic, MD Medically reviewed by Sanja Jelic, MD Sanja Jelic, MD, is board-certified in sleep medicine, critical care medicine, pulmonary disease, and internal medicine. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print krisanapong detraphiphat / Getty Images As of Dec. 20, 2019, the new legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S. If asked which smoking-related disease is the number one cause of death among smokers, most people would probably guess lung cancer or emphysema. While both diseases do claim many lives each year, more smokers actually die from heart disease than any other smoking-related condition. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States within the general population. Many risk factors for cardiovascular disease are related to a person's lifestyle, including smoking cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that tobacco use accounts for up to 10% of cardiovascular disease-related deaths globally each year. In addition to being hard on the heart, smoking also contributes to other chronic conditions and diseases that can lead to disability and even death. According to the CDC, for every person who dies from a smoking-related cause, there are 30 people living with a smoking-related disease. Global Smoking Statistics Smoking's Effects on Health The World Health Organization's tobacco use statistics indicate that approximately 7 billion worldwide people die smoking-related deaths every year. Furthermore, it's not just smokers who suffer the effects of tobacco use: The WHO statistics show that an additional 1.2 million people who don't smoke die each year as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke. In the United States alone, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death, with around one in five people dying a smoking-related death every year. Part of what makes smoking so deadly are the chemical compounds used to make cigarettes. According to the American Lung Association, more than 7,000 chemicals are present in a lit cigarette—at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Additionally, many of the 600-some ingredients found in a single cigarette can be toxic including ammonia, lead, carbon monoxide, arsenic, and formaldehyde (the fluid used to embalm dead bodies). The destructive health consequences of smoking cigarettes are widespread. While some are outwardly visible (such as yellow teeth and nails or a "smoker's cough"), many of the negative effects of smoking are internal and may buildup slowly overtime. Here are just a few examples of how smoking can affect each system of your body. Brain, Head, and Neck Tobacco use can cause many physical health conditions, but it can also affect your mental health. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are common in people who use substances, including tobacco. According to the CDC, smokers are more likely to experience depression than non-smokers. One of the more obvious consequences of smoking that is related to both physical and mental health is the altered brain chemistry that occurs when someone uses tobacco. When someone is addicted to smoking and tries to quit, they will likely experience nicotine withdrawal. What It's Like to Be Addicted to Smoking Smoking can also change the brain on a physical level. For example, the thickening and narrowing of blood vessels that result from smoking increases a person's risk of having a stroke. Eyes and Nose Whether you're smoking yourself or just standing downwind of someone who is, a waft of cigarette smoke can easily irritate the eyes, causing stinging and watering. In the longterm, exposure to cigarette smoke can also lead to: CataractsMacular degenerationReduced sense of smell Mouth, Teeth, and Throat Smoking cigarettes can lead to yellow-stained teeth and bad breath, but there are also other health consequences for the mouth, teeth, and throat, including: Sore throatReduced sense of tasteGum disease (gingivitis)Plaque buildupCavitiesTeeth that are loose or fall outGraves' diseaseThyroid diseaseOral cancers (lips, mouth, throat, larynx); cancer of the esophagus Hair, Skin, and Nails Smoking is often associated with discolored and brittle nails, hair that smells of cigarettes, and bad breath. There are also other effects that are more than skin deep, including: Wrinkles and premature aging Poor circulation (e.g., cold hands and feet) Peripheral vascular disease Buerger's disease Gangrene How Smoking Damages Your Skin Heart and Lungs Tobacco smoke harms, blocks, and weakens arteries of the heart (atherosclerosis) which increases a person's risk of cardiovascular disease. Other cardiopulmonary conditions attributed to smoking include: Heart attackLung cancerChronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and emphysema"Smoker's cough" and sputumAsthmaShortness of breathFrequent coldsPneumoniaIncreased risk of complications from tuberculosis and influenza Digestion and Urinary System Smoking can also affect your body's ability to digest and eliminate nutrients from what you eat and drink. It can also lead to specific conditions, such as: Stomach and duodenal ulcersAortic aneurysmCancers of stomach, pancreas, colon, kidneys, and bladder How Smoking Affects Your Metabolism Bones Smoking weakens the bones, making it more likely that a person will get injured if they fall or are in an accident. Osteoporosis can increase a person's risk of fractures (such as a broken hip). Degenerative disc disease damages the bones of the spine, which can cause neck and back pain. Blood, Inflammation, and Immunity Smoking can increase the levels of inflammation in the body, which can make the symptoms of certain health conditions (such as fibromyalgia) worse. Heightened levels of inflammation in the body are also known to contribute to the development of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Smoking is a known risk factor for certain blood cancers (leukemia). Smoking also reduces immunity, putting a person at risk for infection and making it harder for their body to heal from an illness or injury. People who have autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and lupus may notice that smoking increases the duration, frequency, and intensity of their flares. Reproductive Health, Pregnancy, and Smoking The effects of smoking can begin even before conception, affecting both male and female reproduction: Sperm deformity, loss of motility, reduced numberInfertilityImpotencePeriod painEarly menopauseCervical cancer Smoking during pregnancy poses risks to both the person who is pregnant and the developing fetus. Possible complications that may occur during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and in the postpartum period include: Spontaneous abortion or miscarriageEctopic pregnancyPlacental abruptionPlacenta previaPremature rupture of membranesPremature birthNewborn small for gestational ageStillbirthBirth defects (e.g., congenital limb reduction)Increased nicotine receptors in the newborn's brain A baby born to a parent who uses tobacco is also at risk for smoking-related health effects as they grow up. Research has shown that children of smokers may be more likely to smoke as teens, more likely to develop respiratory illnesses and conditions like asthma, and may even be more prone to anxiety disorders compared to their peers who aren't exposed to cigarette smoke. How Secondhand Smoke Hurts Kids A Word From Verywell Even though the list of diseases known to be associated with smoking is already very long, it's incomplete. We don't yet fully understand all of the dangers that cigarette smoke presents, and the research is ongoing. What we do know is that cigarettes snuff life out at an alarming rate. Statistics tell us that around half of longterm smokers will die a smoking-related death. Globally, that translates to nearly five million deaths a year. Put another way, someone loses their life to smoking every eight seconds somewhere in the world. Humans are incredibly resilient, and it's never too late to quit. While not all of the damage caused by smoking cigarettes can be reversed, research has shown that some of the damage can be healed—even after years of smoking. An Overview of Quitting Smoking 14 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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Heart Disease Facts. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Infographics - Tobacco Use And Cardiovascular Disease. CDC Global Health. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC). Fast Facts. Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. World Health Organization (WHO). Tobacco. WHO Fact Sheets. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults In The United States. Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. American Lung Association. What’s In A Cigarette? ALA Smoking Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recognize Signs Of Depression. Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC). Smoking And Heart Disease And Stroke. Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Smoking And Your Heart. National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute (NHLBI). National Institutes of Health (NIH). Smoking And Bone Health. NIH Osteoporosis And Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. Aldaham S, Foote JA, Chow HH, Hakim IA. Smoking status effect on inflammatory markers in a randomized trial of current and former heavy smokers. Int J Inflam. 2015;2015:439396. doi:10.1155/2015/439396 Qiu F, Liang CL, Liu H, Zeng YQ, Hou S, Huang S, et al. Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune responsiveness: Up and down or upside down?. Oncotarget. 2017;8(1):268-284. doi:10.18632/oncotarget.13613 Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC). Smoking During Pregnancy. Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Moylan S, Gustavson K, Øverland S, Karevold EB, Jacka F, Pasco J, et al. The impact of maternal smoking during pregnancy on depressive and anxiety behaviors in children: the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. BMC Med. 2015;13(1). doi:10.1186/s12916-014-0257-4 Additional Reading American Cancer Society. The Tobacco Atlas. Sixth. (Drope J, Schluger N, eds.). Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2018:20-31. Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC). Children In The Home. Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Gometz ED. Health effects of smoking and the benefits of quitting. Virtual Mentor. 2011;13(1):31-5. doi:10.1001/virtualmentor.2011.13.1.cprl1-1101 The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team. Health Risks Of Smoking Tobacco. American Cancer Society. By Terry Martin Terry Martin quit smoking after 26 years and is now an advocate for those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction. 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.