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Smoking Cessation

Risks of smoking

Smoking is linked to more than two dozen diseases and conditions, including cancer and heart disease. Most of these start to reverse after you quit smoking. Sometimes the benefits of quitting begin in a matter of hours.

Health risks for people who smoke

All people who smoke are at increased risk for:

  • problems with their heart and blood vessels
  • certain types of cancers
  • lung and respiratory problems
  • other health issues
  • premature death


Female smokers are also at increased risk for:

  • cancer of the cervix
  • problems with periods (menstrual problems)
  • problems getting pregnant (fertility problems)
  • premature delivery
  • having a low birth weight baby


Male smokers are also at increased risk for:

  • problems with erections (impotence/erectile dysfunction)


Did you know? Each day, 100 Canadians die of a smoking-related illness. The good news? Life expectancy improves after you quit.

Risks from other types of tobacco

Cigar and pipe smokers experience the same types of health problems as cigarette smokers.

Smokeless tobacco (including chewing tobacco and snuff) also contains many of the same harmful and addictive substances as cigarettes, pipes, and cigars. Smokeless tobacco is a major cause of cancer of the mouth and throat. It can also cause serious dental health problems, including receding gums, tooth loss, and discoloured teeth and gums.

Did you know? Of the more than 4,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke, hundreds are toxic including hydrogen cyanide, lead, acetone, arsenic, and formaldehyde. At least 70 of these chemicals are carcinogens (known to cause cancer).

Health risks from second-hand smoke

Second-hand smoke is the combination of smoke coming directly from a burning tobacco product and the smoke exhaled by a person smoking.

People exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk for:

  • heart problems
  • lung cancer
  • breathing problems (like more severe asthma)
  • excessive coughing
  • throat irritation
  • premature death


Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at increased risk for:

  • respiratory illnesses
  • more frequent and more severe asthma attacks (among children with asthma)
  • ear infections
  • phlegm, wheezing, and breathlessness
  • decreased level of lung function


Children are especially at risk from second-hand smoke because their breathing (respiratory) and immune systems are still developing.

Pregnant women exposed to second-hand smoke during pregnancy are at increased risk of problems with their health and the health of their unborn baby. They are also at increased risk of having a low birth weight baby.

Infants exposed to second-hand smoke or whose mother smoked during pregnancy are at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Did you know? It’s not just people who smoke who are at risk. Breathing in second-hand smoke causes over 800 deaths in Canadian non-smokers from lung cancer and heart disease every year.

What you can do

Protect your health, and the health of everyone around you!

  • The best solution is to quit smoking.
  • Keep your home and car 100% smoke-free.
  • If you are pregnant, quit smoking and stay away from second-hand smoke.
  • Limit your smoking to places where others aren’t exposed to your smoke.
  • Don’t smoke around children, pregnant women, and people with heart or breathing problems.

Benefits of quitting smoking

Quitting smoking may improve the length and quality of your life. When you give up cigarettes, your body starts to renew itself as early as the first day of quitting. You may live longer and reduce your chance of developing heart disease, cancer, breathing problems, and infections. And there are other rewards too.

Health benefits of quitting

You will start seeing health benefits soon after you smoke your last cigarette.

After quitting, within:

  • 20 minutes – your blood pressure drops to a level similar to what it was before your last cigarette.
  • 8 hours – the level of carbon monoxide (a toxic gas) in your blood drops to normal.
  • 24 hours – your risk of having a heart attack starts to drop
  • 2 weeks to 3 months – the airways in your lungs relax and your can get more air into your lungs and breathe easier
  • 1 to 9 months – you cough less and your lungs work even better.
  • 1 year – your added risk of coronary heart disease is half than that of a smoker’s
  • 5 years – you have the same chance of having a stroke as a non-smoker
  • 10 Years – your chance of dying from lung cancer is much lower. So is your chance of getting cancer in your  mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and/or pancreas
  • 15 Years – your risk of coronary heart disease is  similar to that of a non-smoker

The health benefits of quitting are the same for all types of smokers (men and women, young and old). And by quitting, you will lower the chance that people around you will have health problems from second-hand smoke.

Even those who have developed smoking-related problems like heart disease can benefit. Compared to continuing to smoke, people who quit smoking after having a heart attack may reduce their chances of having another heart attack by as much as 50%.

Are you pregnant? The sooner you quit, the better for you and your baby. Talk to your doctor or nurse about quitting. They can advise you about the types of quitting methods best for you.

Other benefits

There are many other benefits of quitting smoking:

  • Think of the money you will save on cigarettes and tobacco products.
  • Your life and house insurance premiums may go down.
  • Smoking cigarettes will no longer control your life.
  • You won’t have to search for places that let you smoke.
  • You’ll feel proud of your ability to overcome something so challenging.


The message is clear. It’s never too late to quit smoking.

5 Stages to Quitting

1. Pre-contemplation (not thinking about quitting)

People who are at this stage are not really thinking about quitting, and if challenged, will probably defend their smoking behaviour. They may be discouraged about previous attempts to quit or believe they’re too addicted to ever stop smoking. These smokers are not likely to be receptive to messages about the health benefits of quitting. But at some point, the great majority of “pre-contemplators” begin thinking about quitting.

2. Contemplation (thinking about quitting but not ready to quit)

During this stage, smokers are considering quitting sometime in the near future (probably six months or less). They are more aware of the personal consequences and consider smoking a problem that needs resolution. Consequently, they’re more open to receiving information about smoking and identifying the barriers that prevent them from quitting.

3. Preparation (getting ready to quit)

In the preparation stage, smokers have made the decision to quit and are getting ready to stop smoking. They see the “cons” of smoking as outweighing the “pros” and are taking small steps towards quitting. For example, in their initial planning phases, they may be smoking fewer cigarettes. They make statements such as “This is serious… something has to change” and may actually set a date to quit smoking.

4. Action (quitting)

In this stage, people are actively trying to stop smoking, perhaps using short-term rewards to keep themselves motivated and often turning to family, friends and others for support. They mentally review their commitment to themselves and firm-up action plans to deal with both personal and external pressures that could lead to slips. This stage, generally lasting up to six months, is the period during which smokers need the most help and support.

5. Maintenance (remaining a non-smoker)

Former smokers in the maintenance stage have learned to anticipate and handle temptations to smoke and are able to use new ways of coping with stress, boredom and social pressures that had been part of their “smoker’s identity.” Although they may slip and have a cigarette, they try to learn from the slip so it doesn’t happen again. This helps to give them a stronger sense of control and the ability to stay smoke-free.

Did you know? Former smokers may live longer than those who continue to smoke. People who quit around age 50 may reduce their risk of dying prematurely, gaining about six years of life expectancy over those who continue to smoke.


Note:The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only. Sources of information: Government of Canada. www.canada.ca | Health Canada. www.hc-sc.gc.ca

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