The health risks of smoking
Half of all smokers die from smoking related diseases.
It is estimated that, in 2015, 5,950 people died as a direct result of smoking, with an additional 100 deaths estimated to be as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke. There were also an estimated 205,100 hospital admissions (inpatient and outpatient admissions and day case appointments) attributable to smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.
The breakdown is as follows:
- Cancers – 50%
- Circulatory diseases – 14%
- Respiratory diseases – 55%
- All causes – 30%
Ref: Tobacco Free Ireland Programme, HSE. The State of Tobacco Control in Ireland. Health Service Executive (HSE) 2018.
Health risks for smokers
Smoking harms your health, but how? Take a closer look at the risks associated with smoking.
Smoking is the single biggest risk factor for lung cancer. Find out more about lung cancer. It is also a contributory risk factor in a number of other cancers.
Your heart is your body’s engine, pumping blood to all vital organs. Smoking damages that engine by:
- Increasing your heart-rate and therefore, increasing your requirement for oxygen in the blood.
- Introducing carbon monoxide into the blood. This may contribute to the development of coronary heart disease and possible heart attacks.
- Increasing the risk of blood clot.
- Hardening and narrowing of the arteries, reducing blood flow to the heart.
Smokers are more likely to have a stroke (blockage of blood to the brain or bleed in the brain) than non-smokers. Strokes are a major cause of death and prolonged disability.
Bronchitis and emphysema
Smoking can cause or worsen these serious respiratory conditions. Severe emphysema causes breathlessness, which can be made worse by infections.
Fertility levels and birth problems
Smoking can reduce fertility, and smoking during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth and illness in early infancy.
Cancers caused by smoking
Smoking is a prime cause of lung cancer but it is also a known risk factor in several other cancers.
Cancer is a major cause of death and illness in Ireland and many other countries. Your chances of getting the cancers listed below are higher (in some cases much higher) if you smoke.
- Lung cancer
Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in Ireland. In 2011, 2,175 people developed lung cancer and 90% of these cases are directly caused by smoking.
It is not only smokers who are affected. Non-smokers who breathe in other people’s tobacco smoke, or ‘second-hand’ smoke, have an increased risk of lung cancer. Children and teenagers exposed to second-hand smoke may be particularly at risk of lung cancer later in life as well as have an increased risk of asthma and other respiratory problems.
- Mouth, head and neck cancer
Smoking is a major cause of cancers of the oral cavity (tongue, lips, gums) and mouth, head and neck cancer. Find out more about mouth, head and neck cancer.
- Cancer of the stomach
When you inhale cigarette smoke, you will always swallow some of it without meaning to. Consequently, the risk of developing stomach cancer is higher among smokers. Find out more about cancer of the stomach.
- Cancer of the pancreas
Smoking is at least a contributory and may be a causal factor in the development of cancer of the pancreas. Find out more about cancer of the pancreas.
- Cancer of the kidney
Smoking is also at least a contributory and may be a causal factor in the development of cancer of the kidney. Find out more about cancer of the kidney.
- Cancer of the womb (uterus)
Smoking increases the risk of developing this type of cancer. Find out more about cancer of the womb.
- Cervical cancer
Women who smoke have a greater risk of developing cancer of the cervix. Find out more about cancer of the cervix.
- Cancer of the bladder
Smoking has been identified as a risk factor for cancer of the bladder. Find out more about cancer of the bladder.
- Cancer of the colon
Recent studies show that cigarette smoking can lead to colon cancer, also known as bowel or rectal cancer. Find out more about cancer of the colon.
- Myeloid leukaemia
Smokers have an increased risk of developing myeloid leukaemia. Find out more about myeloid leukaemia.
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