Questions About Smoking, Tobacco, and Health

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What are some of the short- and long-term effects of smoking tobacco?

Smoking causes many types of cancer. But cancers account for only about half of the deaths linked to smoking. Long-term, smoking is also a major cause of heart disease, aneurysms, bronchitis, emphysema, and stroke. It also makes pneumonia and asthma worse. Smoking is linked to about half of the gum disease in the United States, which means more tooth loss and mouth surgery. Wounds take longer to heal and the immune system may not work as well in people who smoke.

Smoking also damages the arteries. This is why many vascular surgeons refuse to operate on patients with peripheral artery disease (poor blood circulation in the arms and legs) unless they stop smoking. And male smokers have a higher risk of sexual impotence (erectile dysfunction) the longer they smoke.

Smoking also causes many short-term effects, such as poor lung function. This is why smokers often suffer shortness of breath and nagging coughs. They often tire quickly during physical activity. Some other common short-term effects include decreased sense of smell and taste, premature aging of the skin, bad breath, and stained teeth.

What are the chances that smoking will kill you?

About half of the people who keep smoking will die because of it. In the United States, tobacco causes nearly 1 in 5 deaths, or about 480,000 premature deaths each year –almost half a million in the US alone. Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in our society.

On a larger scale, tobacco causes 6 million premature deaths world-wide each year. By 2030, this number is expected to increase to 8 million if current smoking trends continue.

Last Medical Review: 02/13/2014
Last Revised: 02/13/2014