Daily Bread

Dangers of Smoking

Nicotine is an addictive drug.

  • Nicotine inhaled in cigarette smoke reaches the brain faster than drugs that enter the body intravenously. Smokers not only become physically addicted to nicotine; they also link smoking with many social activities, making smoking a difficult habit to break.
  • Smoking-related diseases claim an estimated 438,000 American lives each year, including those affected indirectly, such as babies born prematurely because of prenatal maternal smoking and victims of "secondhand" exposure to tobacco's carcinogens.
  • Smoking costs the United States more than $167 billion each year in health care costs, including $92 billion in mortality-related productivity loses and $75 billion in direct medical expenditures, or an average of $3,702 per adult smoker.
  • Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths and approximately 80-90 percent of COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) deaths.
  • About 8.6 million people in the U.S. have at least one serious illness caused by smoking.
  • Among current smokers, chronic lung disease accounts for 73 percent of smoking-related conditions. Even among former smokers, chronic lung disease accounts for 50 percent of smoking-related conditions.
    Smoking is a major factor in coronary heart disease and stroke; may be causally related to malignancies in other parts of the body; and has been linked to a variety of other conditions and disorders, including slowed healing of wounds, infertility, and peptic ulcer disease. For the first time, the Surgeon General recently included pneumonia in the list of diseases caused by smoking.
  • Smoking in pregnancy accounts for an estimated 20 to 30 percent of low-birth weight babies, up to 14 percent of preterm deliveries, and some 10 percent of all infant deaths. Even apparently healthy, full-term babies of smokers have been found to be born with narrowed airways and curtailed lung function.
  • Smoking by parents is also associated with a wide range of adverse effects in their children, including exacerbation of asthma, increased frequency of colds and ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome. Secondhand smoke causes an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infections in children younger than 18 months of age, resulting in 7,500 to 15,000 annual hospitalizations.
  • Secondhand smoke involuntarily inhaled by nonsmokers from other people's cigarettes is classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a known human (Group A) carcinogen, responsible for approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 46,000 (ranging from 22,700-69,600) heart disease deaths in adult nonsmokers annually in the United States.


Published: Nov. 14, 2007
Source: American Lung Association