Harms of smoking in numbers

chinacdc.cn | Updated: 2023-06-05
Tobacco is one of the most serious public health problems in the world. It not only endangers the health of smokers, but also seriously pollutes the environment and affects the health of others.
It's known that smoking is bad for the lungs. In fact, the harm of smoking is far more than that; tumors, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, and dementia are all closely related to smoking. The following are some key figures that reveal the harms of tobacco.

Code F17.2
Smoking addiction (also known as tobacco dependence) is not a behavioral habit, but a chronic disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) has included it in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10), coded as F17.2. 
Nicotine is the main addictive ingredient of tobacco. Smokers generally do not consume many cigarettes at the beginning, and their smoking frequency is not particularly high. However, under the highly addictive effect of nicotine, their brains' form and function will change after a prolonged period of smoking, and their dependency will become greater.

Eight million deaths a year
According to data from the WHO, the worldwide number of deaths due to smoking and secondhand smoke exposure is around eight million every year, equivalent to one smoking-related death every four seconds. 
Among them, more than seven million people die from smoking, and 1.2 million non-smokers die from exposure to secondhand smoke.
69 kinds of carcinogen 
The smoke produced by tobacco combustion is a complex mixture of more than 7,000 compounds, of which gases account for 95 percent, including carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and volatile nitrosamines. Particulate matter accounts for five percent, including semi-volatile and non-volatile substances, such as cigarette tar and nicotine. 
The majority of these compounds are harmful to the human body, at least 69 of which are known as carcinogens, like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and nitrosamines. 

Risk of developing 56 diseases and dying from 22 diseases
A study has found that smoking is associated with an increased risk of 56 diseases.

Kinds of diseases

Risk increased due to smoking

malignant tumor

by 34 percent

respiratory system disease

by 18 percent

circulatory system disease

by 10 percent

infectious and parasitic diseases

by 7 percent

skin and subcutaneous tissue diseases

by 14 percent

endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases

by 5 percent

The study also claims that smoking was associated with an increased risk of death from 22 diseases. The risk of death from major diseases for men who smoke or used to smoke rises by 33 percent, compared with non-smokers. Men who start smoking under the age of 18 and live in urban areas have a 106 percent higher overall risk of death and a 32 percent higher risk of random disease.
Smoking not only harms smokers, but also affects their family and those around them. A study conducted in 192 countries worldwide in 2004 found that 40 percent of child nonsmokers, 33 percent of male nonsmokers and 35 percent of female nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke. 
Evidence suggests that exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to childhood asthma, lung cancer, and coronary heart disease.
Six hours
Third-hand smoke is the tobacco residue left on surfaces, such as clothes, walls, carpets, furniture, and even on hair and skin. It contains a dozen toxic components, including hydrocyanic acid, butane, toluene, arsenic, lead and carbon monoxide. 
Third-hand smoke can stay indoors for a long time - remaining for around six hours after the cigarette is extinguished, and the residue will accumulate over time.
Ten years
The influence of tobacco on people has a hysteresis effect, and the consequences may not fully materialize until 10 to 30 years later. As the organ functions in the body gradually decline with age, the harms caused by tobacco appear as well. 
Quitting smoking early can make up for damaged health. For people who quit smoking for 10 years before the onset of any serious diseases, their risk of disease or death is close to the level of those who have never smoked.
Nearly half of smokers suffer from tobacco dependence, which can be further divided into mild, moderate and severe dependence. They have differences in smoking motivation, the amount, pack-years, smoking duration, and willingness to quit smoking. Accordingly, means of smoking cessation varies from person to person.
Many people fail to quit smoking because they do not use the correct and scientific methods. Smokers without addiction or with low levels of tobacco dependence can quit smoking on their own with perseverance. People with a high degree of tobacco dependence can go to a special clinic to receive cessation treatment such as behavior modification and medication.