How Does Tobacco Affect Your Health?

legacy home button

How Does Tobacco Affect Your Health?

Jan. 27, 2011

"Smoking is bad for you." The words get your attention. But the statistics - and the tobacco - take your breath away: Smoking accounts for more than 440,000 annual deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States - and it's not just what smokers are doing to themselves. Between 5 and 15 percent of smoking's annual victims from heart and blood vessel disease are caused by other people's smoke. The 2010 Report of the Surgeon General says any exposure to tobacco smoke - even an occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke - is harmful.

There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco, including chewing tobacco and other smokeless products. This applies to every level of use from social smokers to long-time smokers. All possess the risk of developing a smoking-related disease.

To support healthier living among our employees, patients and visitors, we compiled information on the top health conditions related to smoking and how quitting can have an immediate impact.

High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease
According to the American Heart Association, smoking causes chronic disorders, including lung disease, atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke and even sudden death. But quitting smoking can improve overall health. After just one year of quitting, risk for a heart attack drops by 50 percent compared to current smokers and gradually returns to normal for those without heart disease. Those who already have suffered a heart attack can cut their risk of having another by one-third to one-half. Smokers double their risk for stroke, but two to five years after they quit, their risk for stroke falls to about the same as a nonsmoker's risk.

- Fact: Quitting saves money! Find out how much you can save when you quit smoking. Use our online savings calculator to find out how much you can save.

Diabetes
The National Kidney Foundation finds that smoking is a problem for people with diabetes because smoking slows down blood flow and can worsen heart, blood vessel and kidney problems. People who smoke and have diabetes are two to three times more likely to develop kidney disease than non-smokers. Smoking also can slow blood flow to the feet and legs, making sores and infections harder to heal. If they quit smoking, people can better control their blood sugar levels and reduce their risk of heart disease, kidney disease, blindness and amputations.

- Don't know where to start? Here are three easy places to begin your tobacco-free journey:

Cancer
Nearly one-third of all cancer deaths are directly linked to smoking, including cancers of the lip, oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, larynx, lung, uterine cervix, urinary bladder and kidney. Continued smoking weakens the body's cancer-fighting systems and puts those around smokers at risk of developing lung cancer. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their lung cancer risk by 20-30 percent, according to the CDC. That said, within five years of quitting, people cut their chances of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder in half. Family, friends and co-workers also face decreased risks.

The only proven strategy for reducing the risk of tobacco-related disease and death is to quit smoking and stop using tobacco products. It often takes several attempts to quit, but new strategies for cessation, including nicotine replacement and non-nicotine medications, can make it easier.

More Resources & Tools to Help You Quit

LiveHelp Online Chat - Get information and advice about quitting smoking through a confidential online text chat with an information specialist from NCI's Cancer Information Service - Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Eastern Time.