What Smoking Does to Your Body

Smoking seriously hurts your lungs.

Smoking damages your lungs’ natural cleaning and repair system and traps cancer-causing chemicals in your lungs.

Smoking destroys the tiny hairs (cilia), which line the upper airways and protect against infection. When your lungs’ natural cleaning and repair system is damaged, germs, dirt and chemicals from cigarette smoke stay inside your lungs. This puts you at risk for chronic cough, chest infections, lung cancer and COPD.

Smoking permanently damages the alveoli (air sacs) in the lungs, making it hard to breathe. This means it’s harder for your lungs to take in the oxygen you need and harder to get rid of carbon dioxide. When the alveoli are damaged like this, you can feel short of breath and tired. Your heart has to pump much harder to give your body the oxygen it needs. Over time, this can lead to COPD and heart disease.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada. It is estimated that smoking is related to more than 85% of lung cancer cases in Canada.

Smokers are about 10 to 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers. The longer a person smokes and the more cigarettes smoked each day, the more the risk increases. Smokers are also at a higher risk if they are exposed to radon or certain chemicals in their workplace and continue to smoke.

Most forms of lung cancer develop gradually and do not produce any symptoms until the disease is advanced. This makes it difficult to find lung cancer early enough for a cure.
The truth is that tobacco kills about 45,000 Canadians a year. That’s more than the total number of deaths from AIDS, car accidents, suicide, murder, fires and accidental poisonings combined.

There are over 4,000 dangerous chemicals in cigarettes, cigars and pipes smoke. Many of these chemicals are cancer-causing (carcinogen).

Smokers are at very high risk for many diseases:

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis)
  • Lung cancer
  • Cancer of the mouth, lip, throat and voice box
  • Cancer of the pancreas
  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Coronary heart disease (e.g., heart attacks)
  • Circulatory problems
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol (LDL)
  • Pneumonia
  • Influenza (the “flu”)
  • The common cold
  • Peptic ulcers
  • Tooth decay (cavities)
  • Gum disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sleep problems
  • Cataracts