5 facts: How smoking affects your health

Posted at 7:39 AM, Oct 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-26 10:39:54-04

The effects of smoking tobacco have been and continue to be well-documented, yet 15 percent of adults in the United States still smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and most of them smoke every day.

The negative health effects of smoking are numerous, and quitting at any point in your life can have positive benefits, although the sooner the better. Of course, quitting is no easy task, and there are resources for those who want to make the change.

If you’re not convinced, consider these five facts about how smoking affects your health.

1. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.1

Despite its widely publicized health effects, smoking is still one of the leading causes of preventable death. It kills nearly half a million people in the United States every year.

According to the American Cancer Society, “smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns and illegal drugs combined.”

2. Smoking leads to disease and disability.1

It should come as no surprise that smoking can lead to many diseases, some of which can kill you. Here are some of the diseases smoking causes:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis
  • Lung cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Blood cancer
  • Cervix cancer
  • Esophagus cancer
  • Kidney and ureter cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Oral cancers

As the CDC points out, “If nobody smoked, one of every three cancer deaths in the United States would not happen.”

3. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body.1

Smoking doesn’t just hurt your lungs. Tobacco infiltrates its way throughout your entire body, causing damage and harm to almost all internal organs.3

“Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, lungs, eyes, mouth, reproductive organs, bones, bladder and digestive organs,” according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

With heart disease being the No. 1 killer of all people in the United States and around the world, anything you can do to prevent it, including quitting smoking, helps. Additionally, harming any of your organs makes life difficult as you deal with vision loss, oral health problems and/or urinary incontinence.

4. Smoking can affect bone health.2

Smoking cigarettes is associated with a higher risk of osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak or brittle bones. Studies show there is a direct relationship between tobacco use and a decrease in bone density, making tobacco users more susceptible to osteoporosis.4

Smoking increases your chance of having a bone fracture, and continuing to smoke after a bone injury negatively impacts the healing process. Fortunately, quitting smoking can benefit your bones, no matter your age, by limiting bone loss.

5. Smoking decreases immune function (your body’s protection system).2

Smoking makes you more susceptible to diseases — minor and serious. Researchers have found that cigarette smoke compromises a person’s ability to use regular immune and inflammatory responses to mount a defense “against harmful agents,” according to a study published in Nature Reviews Immunology. The harm may continue for decades after exposure.

The good news is that the harm to inflammatory markers, such as white blood cell count, can be reversed, just at a slower rate than traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as cholesterol or blood pressure, according to research in PLOS Medicine journal. Researchers found the expected inflammatory response returned to normal within five years quitting smoking.

There are 37 more facts about how smoking affects your health. Click here to learn more.

1. “Fast Facts and Fact Sheets.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 9 Feb 2017,
2. “Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 15 May 2017,
3. “Smoking & Tobacco Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 15 May 2017, 
4. “Smoking and Bone Health.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 2016,