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Health Effects of Tobacco Use

Smoking tobacco is the number one cause of preventable disease and death in Canada. It reduces your overall health and has negative health effects on nearly every organ in the body. Half of all long term users will die of a tobacco related illness. Learn more about the health effects of smoking from Health Canada.

Cardiovascular diseases

People who smoke are more likely to have cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease/heart attacks, blood clots, and stroke.


Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body. 85-90% of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death, is caused by smoking. Smoking also causes cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box and esophagus. It contributes to leukemia, and cancers of the bladder, stomach, kidneys and pancreas.

Respiratory illness

Smoking increases your risk of developing a respiratory (breathing) illness such as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) – a term that includes both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It also worsens respiratory conditions such as asthma. The Lung Health Foundation provides information on asthma and other respiratory conditions caused or affected by smoking.

Pregnancy risks

Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of:

  • Early delivery
  • Stillbirth (death of the baby before birth)
  • Low birth weight
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death)
  • Ectopic pregnancy
  • Orofacial clefts in infants

Nicotine dependence

Nicotine is the addictive ingredient in tobacco that makes it difficult for people to stop using it. It Nicotine is present in all forms of tobacco including cigarettes, cigars and chew. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has lots more information on nicotine dependence.

Second and third-hand smoke

There is no safe level of second-hand smoke exposure; health risks increase the more you are exposed. Learn more about second-hand smoke and how it affects you from the Canadian Cancer Society.

Third-hand smoke is the toxic chemicals from smoke that settle into fabrics, carpet, skin, hair, toys and walls. Making your home and vehicle smoke free are the best ways to protect yourself and your family.

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