Smoke Free

Health promotion action to prevent smoking related-harm in our community

Illnesses caused by smoking and tobacco use


Most people are aware that smoking can cause lung cancer. Smoking can also cause cancer almost anywhere in your body. The harmful chemicals breathed in when smoking can damage the DNA of your cells and cause cancer. Cancers related to smoking include:

  • Trachea, bronchus, and lung
  • Bladder
  • Blood (acute myeloid leukemia)
  • Cervix
  • Colon and rectum
  • Esophagus
  • Kidney and ureter
  • Larynx
  • Liver
  • Oropharynx (includes parts of the throat, tongue, soft palate, and the tonsils)
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach

As well as causing cancer, smoking can reduce how well cancer treatment works. Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are less effective at killing cancer cells when you smoke. Quitting smoking is important to both prevent and treat cancer.

Lung diseases

Smoking can cause non-cancer lung diseases by damaging your airways and the small air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs.

  • Smoking can cause lung diseases such as COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis
  • If you have asthma, tobacco smoke can trigger an attack or make an attack worse

Cardiovascular diseases and diabetes

Smokers are at greater risk for diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disease).

  • Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them narrow. This makes your heart beat faster and your blood pressure go up. A heart attack occurs when a blood vessel narrows and blocks blood supply to the heart
  • Smoking can lead to blood clots forming which cause strokes
  • Smoking can cause blockages which can also reduce blood flow to your legs and skin
  • Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of cardiovascular disease

Smoking can worsen diabetes problems (e.g. kidney disease and foot ulcers). Smoking can also cause diabetes because it has negative impacts on hormones and insulin resistance.

Harms in pregnancy and to young children

Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant. It can also affect her baby’s health before and after birth. Smoking increases risks for:

  • Low birth weight
  • Preterm (early) delivery
  • Stillbirth (death of the baby before birth)
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Orofacial clefts in infants
  • Otitis media (glue ear) in children

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