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Cigarette Smoking: Health Risks and How to Quit (PDQ®)

General Information About Tobacco Use

Smoking is the leading cause of cancer in the United States.

Smoking increases the risk of many types of cancer. These include:

A smoker’s risk of cancer can be 2 to 10 times higher than it is for a person who never smoked. This depends on how much and how long the person smoked.

In 2011, about 22% of adult men and about 16% of adult women were smokers. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. In the last 30 years, the total number of smokers has decreased, especially among men. Since the 1980s, deaths caused by lung cancer in men have been decreasing.

Smoking causes many other health problems.

Smoking is linked with many diseases besides cancer. These include:

Other health problems that may be linked to smoking are:

Smoking during pregnancy may cause problems such as slow growth of the fetus and low birth weight.

Being exposed to secondhand smoke increases the risk of cancer and other diseases.

Smoking can also affect the health of nonsmokers. Smoke that comes from the burning of a tobacco product or smoke that is exhaled by smokers is called secondhand smoke. Inhaling secondhand smoke is called involuntary or passive smoking.

The same cancer-causing chemicals inhaled by tobacco smokers are inhaled in lower amounts by people exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of lung cancer and coronary heart disease. Children exposed to tobacco smoke have higher risks of the following:

  • Updated: November 21, 2014