Tobacco has a negative effect on almost every organ of the body. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States, resulting in more than 443,000 deaths each year. Worldwide, recent studies have shown that tobacco is responsible for about 6 million deaths each year.
Cigar smokers and smokeless tobacco (chew or spit tobacco) users have similar health risks as cigarette smokers.
Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS)—or secondhand smoke—results in approximately 3,000 lung cancerdeaths per year in non-smokers. Secondhand smoke is what is given off by the end of the burning cigarette and by the smoker's exhalations.
Short-term Effecs of Smoking
Short-term effects of smoking include more frequent respiratory illnesses such as coughs, colds,bronchitis, and pneumonia. Among children and adolescents exposed to secondhand smoke, rates ofasthma, ear infection and lower respiratory infections are higher.
Smoking also causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, (e.g., emphysema, chronic bronchitis), which is severe lung damage. Smoking reduces blood circulation and narrows blood vessels, depriving the body of oxygen and increasing the risk for heart disease. Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are 25 percent more likely to develop heart disease. Smoking also doubles the risk forstroke and increases the risk for developing cataracts.
Smoking poses additional health risks for women. It increases the risk for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and leads to loss of bone density (osteoporosis), increasing the chances of hip and spine fractures in postmenopausal women.
Women of childbearing age who smoke face higher rates of infertility and greater risks for complications during pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy also increases the unborn baby's health risks (e.g., premature birth, respiratory illnesses, low birth weight). After birth, the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) doubles for babies exposed to secondhand smoke.
Children and teens are especially vulnerable to the hazards of smoking. Because their bodies are not fully mature, smoking interferes with normal lung development in those who begin smoking as children or adolescents. Young people who smoke may become more strongly addicted to cigarettes and face an even greater risk for developing lung cancer than those who start smoking later in life. Every day, approximately 4,000 children under the age of 18 try a cigarette for the first time and 1,000 become regular smokers.
Teenagers who smoke are more likely to have depression or other psychological problems. They are also more likely to engage in other dangerous behaviors, such as using alcohol and other drugs.
Electronic cigarettes (also known as e-cigarettes) are battery-operated devices that often are designed to look, feel, and taste like tobacco cigarettes. These devices, which may be marketed to young people and sold as a safer alternative to smoking, contain nicotine, flavors, and other substances that are turned into a vapor and are then inhaled. In July 2009, several public health organizations, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), determined that e-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals and cancer-causing agents (carcinogens) and that health claims made by manufacturers of these devices are unproven.