12 Diseases Caused by Smoking

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Each year, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to quit smoking on the third Thursday of November. Known as the Great American Smokeout, the event helps smokers understand that quitting, even for just one day, is the first step in becoming healthier. With tobacco use remaining the largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States, the health benefits of quitting begins immediately.

The diseases caused by smoking harm almost every organ in the body. It is the cause of  1 in  5 deaths in the US alone, yet around 42 million American continue to smoke. Find out more about the different diseases that are caused by smoking and learn the steps necessary to quit smoking today. 

1. Lung Cancer 

Smoking dramatically increases your chances of developing lung cancer. According to the CDC, the leading risk factor for lung cancer is cigarette smoking and, compared to people who don't smoke, people who do smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get or die from lung cancer. Nonsmokers are also at risk of developing lung cancer. A nonsmoker exposed to secondhand smoke has a 20-30% higher risk of developing lung cancer, and secondhand smoke causes 7,330 deaths a year.


Smoking is the cause of 9 in 10 COPD related deaths. This umbrella term, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is the number three killer in the US. The CDC indicates that smoking during childhood and teenage years slows lung growth and increases the risk for developing COPD. 

3. Heart Disease 

People who smoke are four times as likely to develop heart disease than those who do not. Nicotine in cigarettes reduces the amount of oxygen your heart gets and also raises your heart rate putting more stress on your heart. One in  5 deaths from heart disease are related directly to smoking. 

4. Stroke 

Smoking doubles the risk of stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the blood and makes the heart work harder. This makes blood clots form more easily and then the clots can block blood flow to the brain and cause a stroke.

5. Aortic Aneurysm 

The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body. Aneurysms are more common in men than in women according to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. It has been shown that the risk for an aortic aneurysm increases even more in men who smoke.

6. Oropharyngeal Cancer

This type of cancer starts in the mouth or throat. The risk of developing it is directly related to how much someone smoked or chewed. The American Cancer Society says that this cancer can affect the voice box, lips, inner surface of the lips, cheeks and gums.

7. Esophageal Cancer

This is cancer of the throat. The National Cancer Institute states that smoking increases the chances of developing esophageal cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma, or cancer on the lining of organs or the surface of skin, is linked directly to tobacco and alcohol use.

8. Cataracts

This ophthalmological condition occurs when the lens of the eye becomes opaque over time and vision is lost. According to the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, it is the leading cause of blindness and the risk of developing it is increased by smoking.

9. Type 2 Diabetes 

Around 90% of diabetes cases are type 2 diabetes. The CDC says that smoking is a direct cause of type 2 diabetes. Smokers have a 30-40% increased risk of developing it. People who develop diabetes and continue to smoke are more likely to have trouble controlling their disease, which may lead to increased chances of heart disease, ulcers, infections and amputations. 

10. Rheumatoid Arthritis

It has been shown that smoking increases your chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation cites a study that centered on the connection between the two. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in the joints, pain, deformities and immobility.

11. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

SIDS is the sudden, unexplainable death of a child during sleep. It occurs between the ages of one month and one year. Studies have shown that mothers who smoke during pregnancy put their babies at a higher risk for SIDS. A study published in the US National Library of Medicine explain that mothers who smoked prior to pregnancy have the same increased risks as mothers who smoke during pregnancy. The risk is even higher if the father also smokes. 

12. Erectile Dysfunction

Many studies have found that smoking is a major factor in erectile dysfunction. Smoking causes plaque build up in the arteries and obstructs blood flow. In one study, men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day had a 60% higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

Tips to Help Stop Smoking

Overcoming an addiction to tobacco isn’t easy. Research by the American Cancer Association found that smokers are most successful at kicking the habit when they have support. This support can include:

  • Telephone smoking-cessation hotlines
  • Stop-smoking groups
  • Online quit groups
  • Counseling
  • Nicotine replacement products
  • Prescription medicine to lessen cravings
  • Guide books
  • Encouragement and support from friends and family members

Talk to your doctor today about finding a smoking cessation plan for you. Use our find a doctor tool to make an appointment today and start leading a healthier life.