University of Illinois Extension

Smoking Facts


If someone asked you to put some nail polish remover, arsenic or lead into your body would you do it? How about cyanide, formaldehyde or ammonia? Of course you wouldn’t!
But every time you or someone around you lights a cigarette, that is exactly what you are breathing into your body – plus about 4,000 other chemicals.
The same goes for cigarettes that are "light." They have the same chemicals as regular cigarettes.

Smoking Nationally

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 21percent of adults in the United States are smokers. This equals approximately 46 million Americans. More men (23%) than women (18%) smoke cigarettes. Each year, cigarette smoking causes about 1 in every 5 deaths in the United States. On average, adults who smoke cigarettes die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers.

Diseases Caused by Smoking

Tobacco use continues to be the leading cause of preventable illness and death in the United States. In fact, more deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, car accidents, suicides, and murders combined.

  • All forms of smoking tobacco including cigarette, pipes, and cigars increase the risk of dying from cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, and oral cavity.

Recent research has also shown a link between smoking and breast cancer, and smoking and colorectal cancer.

  • Emphysema and bronchitis are two long-term diseases smokers can get after years of smoking. In emphysema, the air sacs in the lungs (called alveoli) lose their ability to stretch. Rather being flexible and stretchy, the alveoli burst, leaving fewer alveoli to do the breathing work. When a person has bronchitis, the tubes that lead to their lungs (called the bronchi or bronchiole tubes), become swollen and lined with mucus. These two diseases together are called COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary (lung) disease. People with COPD may have chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath and a cough that produces a large amount of mucus.