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.

Heart disease

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.

More information

For information and support on how to quit smoking, call the HSE Quit Team  on 1800 201 203 or visit