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    What are the health risks of smoking?

    On this page
    1. Premature death
    2. Lung cancer, bronchitis, emphysema and asthma
    3. Other cancers
    4. Strokes
    5. Coronary heart disease and heart attacks
    6. Appearance
    7. Erectile dysfunction
    8. Fertility
    9. The good news

    Cigarettes contain at least 250 toxic substances including tar and carbon monoxide. Smoking is a major cause of illness and premature death across the world. Here are some statistics:

    Premature death

    • Nearly half of all long-term smokers die prematurely from a smoking-related disease.
    • A quarter of smokers die between the ages of 35 and 69.
    • Smoking causes 15% of deaths in adults over 35 in England.
    • More British people under 70 die from smoking-related diseases than from traffic accidents, breast cancer, AIDS and drug addiction combined.
    • Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year. That’s 1 person every 6 seconds.

    Lung cancer, bronchitis, emphysema and asthma

    • Around 9 out of 10 cases of lung cancer are caused by smoking.
    • Nearly 9 out of 10 people who die from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are smokers. COPD is an umbrella term for several long-term lung conditions, including bronchitis and emphysema.
    • Children of parents who smoke are more likely to have breathing problems such as asthma.

    Other cancers

    • Smoking is the single biggest cause of cancer in the world.
    • Smoking increases your risk of getting leukaemia, as well as cancer of the bladder, kidney, cervix, nose, mouth, oesophagus, liver, stomach, pancreas, larynx and pharynx.


    Coronary heart disease and heart attacks


    • Smoking can prematurely age your skin by 10-20 years.
    • Smokers are more likely to have wrinkles at a younger age.
    • Cigarettes discolour your fingers and teeth, making them yellow.
    • Smokers are 2-3 times more likely to develop psoriasis than non-smokers. Psoriasis is a skin condition which causes rash-like patches of inflamed skin.

    Erectile dysfunction

    • Up to 120,000 men in the UK in their 20s and 30s have erectile dysfunction as a direct result of smoking.
    • Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to suffer from erectile dysfunction (otherwise known as impotence).


    • Smoking damages sperm and reduces how much you produce.
    • On average, women who smoke go through the menopause 2 years earlier than non-smokers.
    • Smoking while pregnant can lead to miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth.
    • Smoking during pregnancy or around a baby increases the risk of cot death.

    The good news

    The good news is that it is never too late to stop smoking. When you quit, the health risks drop dramatically and continue to decrease the longer you stay off the cigarettes. After just 1 month your appearance will improve, after 1 year you will have halved your risk of a heart attack, and after 10 years your risk of lung cancer will have halved too.

    There are also plenty of treatment options available to help you quit smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms by releasing small quantities of nicotine into your body.

    If you are looking for further support, your local NHS stop smoking service can give you expert support at home, on the go or face to face, as well as providing you with a free ‘quit kit’.


    Find the right stop smoking treatment for you
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