Health Risks of Smoking Cigarettes: Cancer, Fertility Problems, Gum Disease, and More

If you’re reading this, you may be thinking about quitting smoking or making a plan to quit. Or maybe you have already tried to quit a few times. You may also already know that smoking is bad for your health and that quitting will reduce your risk of getting a disease related to smoking, such as heart or lung disease. Here are the facts about smoking and your health.

Tobacco use, especially smoking, is the number one preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.4 In fact, 1 of every 2 people who continue to smoke will die early because of their smoking.

Everyone who uses tobacco would benefit from quitting. When you quit smoking “no matter how old you are” you will decrease your risk of:

  • Early death.
  • Heart attack and stroke.
  • Lung cancer and other lung diseases.
  • Other cancers. After you quit, your risk for developing cancers of the voice box (larynx), mouth, throat, esophagus, intestines, bladder, kidney, and pancreas gradually declines.
  • Impotence and fertility problems.
  • Gum disease and other dental problems. People who smoke are twice as likely to lose teeth as people who do not smoke.

In addition to reducing your risk of diseases in the future, you will notice some benefits right away after you stop smoking. Your shortness of breath and asthma symptoms will likely get better within the first 2 to 4 weeks after you quit. (But don’t be surprised if you cough more in the first week after you quit, as your lungs try to clear themselves.)

There are other benefits to quitting:

  • You may reduce the health risks for your family members caused by secondhand smoke when you quit smoking.
  • Your kids will be less likely to start smoking. If your teen already smokes, he or she is more likely to quit smoking if you quit.3
  • Underweight babies and problem pregnancies are less likely in women who quit smoking.

Natural, low-tar, and low-nicotine “light” cigarettes are not any safer to smoke than regular cigarettes. Do not be misled into thinking that these products are any better for you. They are not.

Why quit using cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco?

You can get lung cancer and cancers of the throat and mouth from using cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco.

  • Health risks related to smoking cigars or pipes. Even if you think that you don’t inhale the smoke from a pipe or cigar, you are at greater risk for disease. Quitting reduces these risks in much the same way as in quitting cigarettes.
  • Health risks related to chewing tobacco. Using chewing tobacco (“chew”) or snuff (“dip” or “rub”) gives you a higher risk of mouth cancer, gum disease, and tooth loss.

For teens: Why quit now?

Avoiding diseases caused by smoking and being in control of your life are good reasons for teens to quit.

If you are a teen and you smoke, chew tobacco, or use snuff, you probably already know that tobacco is bad for you. If you are like most teens, you intend to quit at some point, but you may not feel it’s very important to quit now. But the longer you use tobacco, the greater your risk for becoming addicted to it. After you’re hooked, it’s even harder to quit.


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