Health Effects of Smoking

Well-Known and Lesser-Known Consequences of Smoking

photo of a man smoking with an oxygen tube in his nose
What are the health effects of smoking?.

The effects of smoking on the body include more than the well-known risk of developing lung cancer. They involve every organ in the body and can range from emphysema to infertility, and from premature wrinkling to difficulty controlling pain. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. What are some of the other effects of smoking on the body?


The association between smoking and lung cancer is well-known, with smoking being the cause of 80 percent to 90 percent of lung cancers.

But smoking contributes to the risk of several other cancers as well. Smoking is either the direct cause or a contributing factor in 30 percent of cancers. These include:

  • Childhood Cancers - For mothers who smoke while pregnant, the risk of childhood cancers, such as retinoblastoma, may be higher in their offspring.

For people who already have cancer, smoking may lower survival and make treatments less effective.

    Heart Disease and Blood Vessels

    Smoking can cause coronary artery disease and strokes, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States, respectively.

    Lung Disease

    Smoking can cause direct damage to lung tissue and introduce irritants that can result in airways spasms.

    Bones and Joints

    Smoking can lead to thin bones and the risk of fracture and affects joints and related tissues as well.

    Infertility, Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding

    Smoking can lower the chances of becoming pregnant, increase the risk of miscarriage, result in premature births, and increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

    Other Health Effects of Smoking

    Mental Health

    In addition to being an addiction, smoking can have effects on mental health:


    Some effects of smoking may not be life-threatening, but they can certainly be annoying:


    Smoking shortens life by an average of 10 years. That amounts to 12 percent of the average lifespan in the United States.

    Time to Quit

    There are clearly a multitude of good reasons to quit smoking, and help is available.

    Our Guide to Smoking Cessation has been there, and has some excellent tips:


    CDC. Smoking and Tobacco Use. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. Updated 02/17/16.

    CDC. Smoking And Tobacco Use. 2004 Surgeon General’s Report – The Health Consequences of Smoking. Accessed 04/25/16.

    Stavrou, E. et al. Maternal smoking during pregnancy and childhood cancer in New South Wales: a record linkage investigation. Cancer Causes and Control. 2009. 20(9):1551-8.

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