What are the health risks of smoking?
Cigarettes contain at least 400 toxic substances including tar and carbon monoxide. Smoking is a major cause of illness and premature death across the world. Here are some statistics:
- 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 20% 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.
- 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.
- Heavy smokers are 6 times more likely than non-smokers to have a stroke.
- Passive smoking alone is estimated to cause around 3,500 stroke deaths a year.
Coronary heart disease and heart attacks
- Smokers under 40 are 5 times more likely to have a heart attack than non-smokers.
- Around 22,000 smokers die from heart and circulatory diseases in the UK each year.
- Smokers who have coronary heart disease are 60% more likely to die than non-smokers.
- 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.
- 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 by at least 25%.
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. Prescription medicines such as Champix achieve the same effect by affecting your brain’s reaction to nicotine. The evidence suggests that Champix trebles your chances of successfully quitting smoking, and you can use our convenient online service to order it without having to see a doctor face to face.
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’.