Smoking and Health

Spirometry is used to detect lung function abnormalities. In many cases these are caused by a smoking related disease.

Some facts about smoking and health:

  • Smoking causes a long list of potentially fatal diseases. 73% of all smoking related diseases are chronic lung diseases.
  • Cigarettes contain at least 400 toxic substances of which at least 69 are known to cause cancer.
  • Smoking is the world's number one preventable cause of death.
  • In the United States each year 438.000 people die from smoking related diseases
  • Health care costs related to smoking are estimated to cost the US government 167 billion USD every year.
  • 1 in 2 smokers dies from a smoking related disease.
  • Smokers take 25% more sick leave than non-smokers
  • Smokers have a 10 to 15 years lower life expectancy compared to non-smokers

Health Effects of Smoking

Smoking causes a wide range of debilitating and fatal diseases.

Nicotine addiction

Nicotine is the chemical in tobacco that is addictive and can be as addictive as cocaine. It increases the release of a chemical in the brain called dopamine which makes you feel good. Getting that dopamine boost is part of the addiction process.

Anyone who smokes is at risk of becoming addicted to nicotine. Tobacco smoking is a behavior that is often started during childhood. About 90% of smokers started smoking before the age of 21, and many even start before the age of 18. The younger people started smoking, the more likely they are to become a heavy smoker as an adult.

Children with two smoking parents are twice as likely to adopt their parents' smoking habits. And children with smoking friends are more likely to try cigarettes. Tobacco exposure in films and advertisements can influence the decision to start or continue smoking, especially in younger people.

Symptoms of nicotine addiction

  • the inability to stop smoking
  • deprevation symptoms when trying to quit smoking: physical signs like to urge for tocacco, anxiety, irritation, restlessness, loss of concentration, head ache, sleepiness, nausea and even diarrhea and constipation
  • continuing to smoke, in spite of health issues, many smokers with heart or lung disease continue to smoke
  • giving up social and recreational activities to be able to smoke, like not going to restaurants that don't allow smoking and avoiding friends or family when it is not possible to smoke


There is ample proof that smoking causes cancer. Not only the lungs are affected, but the toxic substances in tobocca smoke are transported throughout the body by the blood and can have dire consequences in many other organs as well.

The following cancers are found more often in smokers than in non-smokers:

  • lung cancer: no less than 90% of all lung cancers can be attributed to smoking
  • cancer of the mouth: 4 times more often in smokers
  • cancer of the nose
  • cancer of the sinuses
  • cancer of the throat
  • larynx cancer, expecially in combination with alcohol abuse: 90% of the cases are linked to smoking and/or alcohol abuse
  • pancreatic cancer: 1 in 4 cases are caused by smoking
  • liver cancer
  • cancer of the esophagus
  • bladder cancer: 4x more common in smokers
  • stomach cancer
  • kidney cancer: twice as common in smokers
  • leukemia (cancer of the blood)
  • colon cancer
  • testicular cancer
  • breast cancer
  • cervix cancer
  • prostate cancer: not only more common, but also more often lethal in smokers

Lung disease

The lungs are the main organ where tobacco smoke is deposited and the following lung diseases are more common in smokers.

  • COPD, bronchitis and emphysema: 90% of all cases are caused by tobacco
  • Asthma, also more severe asthma attacks
  • Pneumonia, recurring airway infections
  • Damage to lung tissue, with loss of lung function

Heart and circulation

Smoking has devastating effects on the heart and circulation. Cardiovascular disease is very common and even more so in smokers.

The tissue damage of the blood vessels, caused by smoking can lead to a wide range of heart and vascular diseases, like:

  • stroke
  • aortic rupture
  • heart attack
  • atherosclerosis
  • blood cloths
  • hypercholesterolemia
  • aneurism
  • Buerger's disease
  • hypertension

Eye diseases

  • Cataract: 2 to 3 times more common in smokers
  • Graves ophtalmopathy
  • Macular degenration
  • Amblyopie:
  • Blindness

Male Fertility

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • lower sperm count
  • decreased fertility

Female Fertility

  • decreased fertility
  • earlier menopause

Effects of smoking on fetus and baby

  • higher chance of fetal death during pregnancy
  • lower birth weight
  • Higher incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) if the mother smokes


  • peptic ulcers
  • periodontal disease and gum infection
  • hyperthyroidism (Graves' disease)
  • osteoporosis (and hip fracture)
  • type 2 diabetes
  • more serious complications from diabetes
  • predisposition for Alzheimer's disease
  • decreased wound healing (after surgery)
  • pale skin and wrinkles

Health effects of secondhand smoke

Passive smoking can also cause a variety of health related issues, especially in children.

The following types of cancer have been linked to secondhand smoke:

  • lung cancer
  • throat cancer
  • cancer of the nasal sinusese
  • brain cancer
  • bladder cancer
  • rectum cancer
  • stomach cancer
  • breast cancer
  • liver cancer
  • lymphoma
  • leukemia

Especially children seem to be prone to health effects of secondhand smoke. Children that grow up with a smoking parent are more prone to:

  • SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
  • asthma
  • allergies
  • airway infections
  • learning problems
  • ear infections

It is estimated that passive smoking causes 3000 lung cancer deaths in the US every year. Passive smoking has also been linked to other diseases like COPD, lung infections and heart disease.