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How Smoking Harms

The smoke from commercial tobacco drastically impacts both your health, and the health of those around you. It has a known link to many chronic diseases and use increases your chance of cancer. Both second-hand and third-hand smoke negatively impact the health of those around us. There is no safe level of exposure to commercial tobacco smoke

Did you know that it takes only 20 minutes for your body to benefit from quitting smoking? Learn tricks and tips to help you quit smoking on the  Quit Smoking Page.

Below are just some of the many impacts to health that come from commercial tobacco smoke.

Carbon Monoxide

A chemical made by burning coal, gas, wood and other plant materials. It is found in all smoke, including that from cigarettes.

Carbon monoxide sticks to your red blood cells and can stay attached to them for hours after your cigarette is finished. Red blood cells carry oxygen to your organs and muscles; carbon monoxide prevents the oxygen from attaching to your red blood cells. This decreases oxygen levels in your blood and negatively affects your organs, such as your skin, muscles and heart.

Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease. It occurs when arteries in the heart are blocked, leading to complications such as chest pain or even a heart attack.

Plaque, a sticky and yellow substance made up of fatty products such as cholesterol, calcium or waste, builds up on artery walls over many years. By narrowing and clogging the arteries it slows the flow of blood through them. This condition is called atherosclerosis. It can occur anywhere in the body, but usually affects large and medium-sized arteries.

Sometimes plaque can lead to a rupture in an artery. The body's repair system then creates a blood clot to heal the wound. The clot, however, can block the artery and lead to either a heart attack or stroke.

Cigarettes and other tobacco products drastically increase the levels of plaque in your arteries.


Commonly called a “smoker’s cough,” this is a persistent cough that develops in long-term smokers and lingers for more than 2 or 3 weeks. While at first it may be dry, it usually produces phlegm over time. This phlegm can be clear, white, yellow or even green in color. The cough is usually worst upon wakening.

Smoking damages your cilia (tiny hair-like cells that catch toxins in inhaled air) so that they can’t do their job of clearing foreign substances from your lungs. This leads to coughing as the body attempts to violently clear these substances from your lungs.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when proper blood flow to the heart is blocked. This can happen as a result of the build-up of fat, cholesterol and other substances forming plaque in the arteries that feed the heart. Cigarette and tobacco smoke drastically increase the levels of plaque in your arteries.

When blood flow to the heart is blocked, this causes serious damage to heart muscles. A heart attack can be fatal and you should contact emergency services immediately if you believe you are experiencing one.

Heart Rate

Also known as your pulse, heart rate tells you how hard your heart is working to get your blood to your muscles, organs and tissues. It is normal for your heart rate to increase during physical activity, which is good for your health. A frequently elevated heart rate, however, can be a sign that something is wrong.

The chemicals found in smoke from tobacco (including second-hand smoke) make your heart work harder to circulate the blood through your body – even when you are resting. Long-term exposure to these chemicals also causes your arteries to stiffen, thus making it more difficult to get blood where it is needed in your body.

Lung Function

Lung damage caused from smoking begins right from the very first puff and continues to get worse. Smokers have a lower level of lung function than non-smokers of the same age.

The longer you smoke, the more your lung function decreases. It may take years for the problem to become noticeable enough for lung disease to be diagnosed.

Smoking doesn’t just cause lung cancer, it causes many lung diseases that are nearly as bad including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. 

Second-Hand and Third-Hand Smoke

Second-hand smoke is the smoke exhaled by a smoker and side stream smoke is the smoke from the lit end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar.

Third-hand smoke describes the gases and small particles in cigarette smoke that are deposited on every surface they come into contact with including hair, clothing, drapes, cushions, etc.

Both second-hand and third-hand smoke negatively affect everyone around. There is no safe level of exposure. Anyone exposed to second-hand or third-hand smoke has an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke.


Smoking is a major cause of strokes. Individuals who smoke are 4 times more likely to have a stroke compared with non-smokers. Non-smokers living with smokers are also more likely to suffer a stroke.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain suddenly becomes blocked (ischemic stroke) or bleeds (hemorrhagic stroke). This results in part of the brain dying and causes loss of function of that part of the brain. A stroke may lead to death or affect functions such as movement of body parts, vision, swallowing and communication.

No matter how long you have been a smoker, you can lower your risks if you quit smoking commercial tobacco. To learn more about the benefits of quitting, visit Quit Smoking.