Smoking and Your Health


Smoking, which is an addiction, is the most preventable cause of death in our society.

  • It causes 1 out of every 3 cancer deaths in the U.S. including over 8 out of every 10 lung cancer deaths.
  • It’s the major cause of heart disease, emphysema ans chronic bronchitis (COPD), gastric (stomach) ulcers, stroke, and various other conditions.
  • About 1/2 of all smokers begin as teenagers.
  • Also, the tobacco industry heavily markets smoking in communities of color through advertising and promotion.


Our Most Important Cigarette Smoking Tips

African Americans and Tobacco: Key Victories and Special Needs

Secondhand (Passive) Smoking

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or Emphysema and Chronic Bronchitis

Lung Cancer, A Major Killer from Smoking

Our 5 Quit Smoking and Win Tip Sheets

‘Pathways to Freedom’ – A Special Guide

More about Smoking: In addition to lung cancer, smoking is associated with cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus (upper intestinal tract), cervix, pancreas, kidney and bladder. More African Americans smoke than any other racial or ethnic group. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds including over 40 cancer producing substances (carcinogens). Use of smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco and snuff, is also a very addictive habit, and is associated with an increased risk of oral cancer.

Our Most Important Cigarette Smoking Tipssmoking risks

  • There is no safe way to smoke.
  • Most people who develop lung cancer die from it.
  • Pregnant women who smoke are more likely to have a miscarriage, premature baby, or stillbirth.
  • Menthol cigarettes, which more African Americans smoke, are not safer than non-menthol cigarettes.
  • People who don’t smoke are likely to live longer.
  • Nursing mothers and caregivers who smoke, double or triple an infant’s chances of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Key Diseases Caused by or Associated with Smoking

  • Secondhand (Passive) Smoking
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Lung Cancer, A Major Killer from Smoking
  • Multiple other cancers
  • Heart Disease and Stroke

Our 5 Quit Smoking and Win Tip Sheets

Pathways to Freedom – Special messages and information to help African Americans in “Winning the Fight Against Tobacco”, produced with key leadership from Dr. Robert Robinson, a Health Power Editor.

Secondhand Smoking

Parental and other secondhand smoking has a negative effect on the health of others in the same indoor environment. Other terms for secondhand smoking, are environmental tobacco smoking (or ETS), and passive smoking. Smoking in households with children increases their chances of developing chronic coughs, respiratory infections, and ear infections. For children with asthma, ETS makes their disease more serious. Maternal smoking (to us, that means all smoking in the household) may increase the possibility of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) (SIDS).

Non-smokers who are exposed to the tobacco smoke of others, called secondhand smokers or passive smokers, in essence are involuntary smokers. Environmental tobacco smoke also causes heart disease and lung cancer. It can also cause asthmatic conditions. Children in households where one or both parents smoke have more respiratory illnesses and infections of the middle ear (otitis media).Smoking and Secondhand Smoking

Other situations frequently associated with being an involuntary secondhand smoker include:

  • non-smoking spouses or partners of smokers
  • exposure to smokers in bars and restaurants

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease/COPD (Chronic Bronchitis and Emphysema): Major Complications of Smoking

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is chronic or long-term lung disease that makes it difficult to breathe. There are two main forms of COPD:

  • Chronic bronchitis, which causes long-term swelling and a large amount of mucus in the main airways of the lungs
  • Emphysema, a lung disease that destroys the air sacs in the lungs

Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, and most people with COPD have symptoms of both chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The more a person smokes, the more likely that person will develop severe bronchitis and emphysema. Secondhand smoke may also cause chronic bronchitis. Air pollution, infection, and allergies make chronic bronchitis worse.

Other risk factors for COPD are:

  • Exposure to certain gases or fumes in the workplace
  • Exposure to heavy amounts of secondhand smoke and pollution
  • Frequent use of cooking gas without proper ventilation

Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, among both men and women, and most of these deaths are preventable. That’s because cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. In fact, about 90 percent (that’s 9 out of every 10) of all lung cancers are caused by smoking. A key reason for the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer is the fact that tobacco smoke contains more than 3,500 chemicals, 40 0f which are cancer-causing, or carcinogens. Cigarettes also contain more than 30 toxic metals such as nickel, cadmium, and radioactive substances.

While lung cancer used to be primarily a disease of men, as more women became smokers, more women developed lung cancer, as compared to men. Smoking is also associated with a number of other tobacco related diseases including, heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. More Information on lung cancer including additional risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment are provided in our special Section on Lung Cancer.

For our Health Power Quit Smoking &Win Tip Sheets, click here.


Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!

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