Side Effects of Smoking Cigarettes


According to, smoking cigarettes is the number one preventable cause of illness and death in the United States. More than one million Americans start smoking cigarettes every year, endangering their lives and those around them. Cigarette smoke has been linked to several life-threatening side effects and health risks, the most common being cancer.

Cigarette smoke filling room
Cigarette smoke filling room (Image: Chad Baker/Jason Reed/Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Cigarettes and Cancer

The most common side effect of smoking cigarettes is cancer. While tobacco increases a person’s risk of developing various types of cancers, the most common is lung cancer. Cigarette smoke also significantly increases a person’s risk of developing cancer of the mouth, lips, throat or voice box.

According to, cigarette smokers are also at an increased risk of developing cancer in the stomach, kidney, esophagus, pancreas, cervix and bladder.

Woman smoking at social event
Woman smoking at social event (Image: John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Heart and Blood Vessel Disease

People who smoke cigarettes are also at a grave risk of heart attack and stroke. The carbon monoxide that lives in cigarette smoke has been associated with hardening of arteries, which can lead to stroke caused by blood clots in the brain.

Nicotine in cigarettes also causes the arteries in the legs and arms to tighten, which increases a risk of blood clots and damaged arteries surrounding the heart.

Man in smoking area of shopping mall.
Man in smoking area of shopping mall. (Image: Mario Tama/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Lung Disease

Lung disease is one of the most serious side effects of smoking cigarettes. The chemicals in smoke can damage the cilia, or the little hairs that protect the lungs from dirt and other waste. Over time, dirt will begin to collect on the lungs, leading to lung disease.

Man smokes cigarette on park bench.
Man smokes cigarette on park bench. (Image: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Chronic Bronchitis

Another side effect of cigarette smoke is chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a chronic inflammatory condition in the lungs characterized by excessive coughing and difficulty breathing. The severity of the condition depends on how long (and how much) a person has been smoking.

Smoking in a dark room
Smoking in a dark room (Image: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)


The long-term lung disease emphysema is also associated with smoking. The first sign of emphysema is shortness of breath during exercise or other exerting activities. Over time, however, as the condition worsens, the patient may even start to experience shortness of breath while at rest. In the later stages, patients will also experience symptoms such as uncontrollable coughing, excess mucus production, a blue tint in the eyes and wheezing.

Man smokes a menthol cigarette
Man smokes a menthol cigarette (Image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Other Side Effects of Smoking

In addition to the life-threatening conditions mentioned, other side effects of smoking cigarettes include:

• Yellowing of the teeth • Development of wrinkles at an early age • Higher risk of bone fractures in the wrist, hip or spine • Difficulty sleeping • Soar throat • Bad smell in clothes, skin and hair • Bad breath

Young woman smoking by open window
Young woman smoking by open window (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

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