If you smoke, you increase your risk of more than 50 serious health conditions. Some may be fatal and others can cause irreversible long-term damage to your health.
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK. You can become ill:
- if you smoke yourself
- through other people’s smoke (passive smoking or secondhand smoke)
In the UK, around 114,000 people die every year from smoking-related illnesses.
Risks to your health
Smoking causes about 90% of lung cancers. It also causes cancer in many other parts of the body, such as:
- voice box (larynx)
- oesophagus (the tube between your mouth and stomach)
Smoking damages your heart and your blood circulation, increasing the risk of conditions such as:
- coronary heart disease
- heart attack
- peripheral vascular disease (damaged blood vessels)
- cerebrovascular disease (damaged arteries that supply blood to your brain)
Smoking damages your lungs, causing conditions such as:
- chronic bronchitis (infection of the main airways in the lungs)
- emphysema (damage to the small airways in the lungs)
- pneumonia (inflammation in the lungs)
Smoking can also worsen or prolong the symptoms of respiratory conditions, such as asthma, or respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold.
In men, smoking can cause impotence as it limits the blood supply to the penis.
For both men and women, smoking can affect fertility, making it difficult for you to have children.
Secondhand smoke comes from the tip of a lit cigarette and is the smoke that the smoker breathes out
People who breathe in secondhand smoke are at risk of the same health conditions as smokers, particularly lung cancer and heart disease. For example, breathing in secondhand smoke increases a non-smoker's risk of lung cancer by 24% and heart disease by 25%.
Children are particularly affected by secondhand smoke because their bodies are still developing. For example, children under five have an increased risk of chest infections, and babies are at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or cot death.
Smoking during pregnancy
If you smoke when you’re pregnant, you put your unborn baby’s health at risk, as well as your own.
Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of complications, such as:
- premature (early) birth
- a low birth weight baby
- Still birth