Facts Chief

Written by Facts Chief

Modified & Updated: 28 Apr 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith

smoking facts
  1. Definition: The process of burning tobacco and inhaling its smoke
  2. History: People smoked as early as 5000 – 3000 BC
  3. Health: Smoking and lung cancer first connected in the late 1920s
  4. Casualties: 480,000 deaths in the US each year
  5. Casualties: 1 in 5 deaths in the US caused by smoking
  6. Statistics: Around 20% of U.S. adults are smokers
  7. Life Expectancy: 10 years shorter on average for smokers
  8. Life Span: Shorter by 11 minutes with each cigarette smoked
  9. Chemistry: Over 4,000 harmful chemicals
  10. Consequences: Smoking causes mouth cancer, throat cancer, lung cancer
  1. Health: Smoking Is Considered an Addiction Nowadays
  2. Cessation: Almost All Smokers Who Try to Quit Smoking Fail in Their First Couple of Attempts
  3. Cessation: Quitting Smoking Starts Showing Positive Results Right Away
  4. Diseases: Smoking Causes a Number of Fatal Diseases
  5. Market: Cigarettes Are the Most Traded Item on Earth
  6. Casualties: You Can Actually Die from Smoking Even If You Never Had a Cigarette in Your Life
  7. Effects: Apart from Health Problems, Smoking Has a Number of Other Unpleasant Effects
  8. Benefits: Against All Odds, Smoking Actually Does Have a Couple of Benefits
  9. Gender: There Are More Male Smokers than Female
  10. Money: Smoking Is Expensive – But Not Only for Smokers
  1. Even Though Smoking Is Expensive, Poor People Tend to Smoke More Often
  2. Tobacco Companies Invest Huge Amounts of Money into Advertising
  3. Contrary to Popular Belief, Smoking Doesn’t Really Make You Look Sexy
  4. Smoking and Oral Contraceptives Can Be a Very Dangerous Combination
  5. A Shockingly High Percentage of Women Still Smoke during Their Pregnancy
  6. Light Cigarettes Do Not Really Make That Much Difference
  7. A Healthy Lifestyle Does Not Make Up for the Negative Effects of Smoking
  8. Just Cutting Back on Your Smoking Won’t Really Make You Any Healthier
  9. Quitting Smoking Can Significantly Improve Your Sex Life
  10. Tobacco is Subject to Special Taxes in Most Countries of the World
Table of Contents

Smoking Facts Infographics

Smoking Facts infographics

Smoking Is Considered an Addiction Nowadays

Smoking facts are very clear when it comes to categorizing the habit of smoking – tobacco use (in any form, including smoking) is an addiction, caused by the substance called nicotine. But physical addiction to nicotine is only one aspect of smoking addiction; smoking is also a habit tightly connected to various social activities and, as such, is a very difficult habit to break.

For regular smokers, the decrease of nicotine level in the blood brings numerous withdrawal symptoms, including craving, anxiety, restlessness, headache, irritability, hunger, focusing issues and general feeling of tiredness.

Almost All Smokers Who Try to Quit Smoking Fail in Their First Couple of Attempts

Say NO to Smoking
Say NO to Smoking

Smoking facts reveal that more than two-thirds of smokers want to quit smoking completely, but unfortunately, only some of them succeed at their first attempt. But there is a valuable lesson in this: if you are a smoker yourself and your first attempt of quitting fails, don’t give up immediately. Most smokers succeed after a few attempts, most likely three or four attempts, although some smokers need more and some less.

Smokers can greatly improve their chances of succeeding in giving up their nasty habit by helping themselves with counseling, medication or both. Counseling can be done individually or in groups, and nowadays special phone counseling is available almost everywhere. In the USA, for example, the American Lung Association runs a counseling program called Freedom from Smoking (FFS), which is widely available. Most smokers trying to quit combine counseling with medication – there are various medications available nowadays that are very effective in helping smokers quit. Nicotine gums and nicotine patches are over-the-counter aids, and various other aids, such as bupropion and varenicline, are available by prescription.

Quitting Smoking Starts Showing Positive Results Right Away

The fact that quitting smoking brings several benefits is clear to all smokers, but very few are aware that these benefits begin to show straightaway. After only 72 hours, breathing becomes easier as bronchial tubes begin to relax and, consequently, there is also an increase in energy levels. After one month, the appearance of the skin improves, and in 3 to 9 months, coughing, wheezing and breathing problems improve as lung function increases. One year after the cessation of smoking, the risk of suffering from a heart attack is half that of a smoker. There are also various other short-term benefits that are not directly connected to health: improved financial situation (as smokers spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year on their habit), the smell of smoke goes away (from skin, clothes and breath) and even simple colds become less frequent.

Although quitting smoking is beneficial at any age, there are clear benefits when quitting at a younger age. Smoking facts reveal that those who stop smoking before the age of 35 have almost the same life expectancy as those who never smoked. Those who stop smoking before the age of 50 cut the risk of developing a smoking-related disease by half, and those who stop after being diagnosed with a smoking-related disease can also greatly improve their prognosis by quitting immediately.

Smoking Causes a Number of Fatal Diseases

lung cancer
Lung Cancer

Smoking has been connected to the following types of cancer: mouth cancer, throat cancer, larynx cancer, lung cancer, esophagus cancer, pancreas cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, stomach cancer, cervical cancer and leukemia. In addition to cancer, smoking also greatly increases the risk for various cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, coronary heart disease, aortic aneurysm and atherosclerosis, and pulmonary diseases, such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

All these are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions, but smoking also causes other conditions that may not be fatal, but still greatly decrease the quality of one’s life – slower healing of wounds, infertility, impotence, periodontitis, halitosis, osteoporosis, dementia, optic neuropathy, teeth loss and many others.

Cigarettes Are the Most Traded Item on Earth

No other single item has a bigger market, since every year more than 1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000!) cigarettes are sold across the world. This constitutes one of the biggest global markets, worth around $400 billion. It is interesting to note that four of the globally most popular American cigarette brands (Marlboro, Kent, Kool and Camel) represent around 70% of the global cigarette market. But they do not make most of their sales in the USA, since American tobacco companies in general nowadays sell more of their products abroad than in the home market.

You Can Actually Die from Smoking Even If You Never Had a Cigarette in Your Life

Smoking facts reveal the shocking truth that people sometimes die from smoking even though they never lit a cigarette themselves. People who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work have a 20-30% greater risk of developing lung cancer. And this is not just a potential risk; over 7,000 non-smokers die each year in the USA from lung cancer due to secondhand smoking. Even more non-smokers, about 34,000, die each year from coronary heart disease due to secondhand smoking.

Research shows that secondhand smoke exposure is highest among children between the ages of 3 and 11, non-Hispanic blacks, people living below the poverty level and people living in rental housing. For every 10 smokers that die as a result of their nasty habit in the US, 1 non-smoker dies as a result of secondhand smoke, too…

Apart from Health Problems, Smoking Has a Number of Other Unpleasant Effects

We already mentioned the unpleasant smell, but smoking facts also reveal other potential problems, such as a dulled sense of taste and smell, which also potentially decreases enjoyment of food, social stigma and even a negative influence on one’s career. Statistics have shown that many employers prefer not to employ smokers since they are much more prone to health problems (more than 34 million working days are lost each year because of smoking-related health problems).

Research also shows that many regular smokers smoke most of their daily cigarettes at work – some up to 10 or even 20 each work day. Considering the fact that smoking one cigarette on average lasts for about 5 minutes, this means an hour or even an hour and a half lost every single work day to smoking.

Against All Odds, Smoking Actually Does Have a Couple of Benefits

Doctors, the World Health Organization, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and almost every health-related organization in the world, tell us that smoking is bad for our health, but smoking facts reveal a surprising truth that smoking actually has a few benefits too.

A study conducted by the University of Adelaide in Australia showed that smokers are less likely to need knee-replacement surgery. But how is it even possible for smoking to affect the knees? Simply because knee-replacement surgery is common with joggers and obese people, and smokers are statistically less likely to belong to either of these two groups. Smoking also lowers the risk for Parkinson’s disease and can actually supports the effects of the heart drug called clopidogrel, which is used to inhibit blood clots in patients who suffer from coronary artery disease…

There Are More Male Smokers than Female

Smoking facts statistics show that smoking is more popular among men than women in the US – about 20% of men are smokers compared to about 15% of women. Race and/or ethnicity also have a statistical significance when talking about smoking – 26% of American Indians/Alaska Natives, 19% of the white population and 18% of the black population are smokers, while only 12% of Hispanics and 10% of Asians in the USA smoke. This is of course not a consequence of any physical attributes (such as tendency to addiction, for example), but a mere consequence of the different lifestyles of different ethnicities in the USA.

Smoking Is Expensive – But Not Only for Smokers

Smokers don’t cause financial problems only to themselves, but also to the greater community. Smoking facts show that smoking-related diseases in the US cost more than $300 billion per year – about $170 billion in direct medical care costs and about $150 billion in loss of productivity.

Each pack of cigarettes sold in the US costs the country more than $7 in medical care and loss of productivity, according to a statement from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002, but other studies show that this cost might actually be much higher – possibly over $40 per pack of cigarettes sold.

Even Though Smoking Is Expensive, Poor People Tend to Smoke More Often

Smoking statistics show that 29% of people who live below the poverty level smoke, but the percentage is only 16% among people at or above the poverty level. Since the individual’s financial situation is often also connected to education, education profiles of smokers show a similar picture. Smoking is more popular among people with lower levels of education: 24% of people with less than a high school education smoke and so do 41% of GED certificated individuals and 22% of high school graduates – on the other side, only 18% of people with associate degrees, 9% of people with undergraduate degrees and 6% of people with postgraduate degrees smoke.

Tobacco Companies Invest Huge Amounts of Money into Advertising

There have been various legal limitations on tobacco advertising in the last few decades, starting with the 1971 Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act, which banned tobacco advertising on TV and radio. More recently came President Obama’s Tobacco Control Act from 2010, severely limiting the marketing efforts of tobacco companies. The Act states: “audio advertisements are not permitted to contain any music or sound effects, while video advertisements are limited to static black text on a white background. Any audio soundtrack accompanying a video advertisement is limited to words only, with no music or sound effects”. Despite these limitations, tobacco companies still invest huge amounts into advertising.

And this has been a source of heated public debate in the last years, since tobacco advertising encourages young people to begin a potentially lethal addiction before they are even able to understand the risks. These concerns are confirmed by statistics showing that 90% of adult smokers started smoking by the age of 21; about half of them started before they reached 18 years of age.

Contrary to Popular Belief, Smoking Doesn’t Really Make You Look Sexy

Smoking causes yellow teeth
Smoking causes yellow teeth

The myth that smoking makes one look sexy has roots in the famous 1950s and 1960s tobacco marketing campaigns in the USA that greatly sexualized smoking, but the simple truth is that smoking is far from being sexy. It causes dry and leathery skin, premature wrinkles, yellow teeth, bags under the eyes, tooth decay, hair thinning, nail coloration and halitosis (bad breath), not to mention a decline in sex drive, as well as infertility and impotence. Do you still think that smoking is sexy?

Smoking and Oral Contraceptives Can Be a Very Dangerous Combination

Smoking is never a really good idea, but it is an especially bad one for women who take oral contraceptives because it greatly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure – all very serious health conditions that often lead to death. The risk increases with age (it is especially high in women over 35 years of age) and the intensity of smoking (15 or more cigarettes per day greatly increase the risk). So what should women who take oral contraceptives do? The answer is quite simple – they should stop smoking…

A Shockingly High Percentage of Women Still Smoke during Their Pregnancy

US statistics from 2010 show that 54% of pregnant smokers quit smoking by the last 3 months of pregnancy, 16% admitted smoking after delivering the baby, 23% reported smoking in the last 3 months prior to conception and 11% even admitted smoking during the whole pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy is highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives.

And what are the possible consequences of smoking during pregnancy (including secondhand smoking)? Increased risk of stillbirths, miscarriages, premature deliveries and other complications that can endanger both the baby and the mother.

Light Cigarettes Do Not Really Make That Much Difference

Lower levels of tar and nicotine in cigarettes that are labeled “mild” or “light” promise a lot, but the reality is that most smokers simply compensate lower levels of these dangerous substances by smoking more of each cigarette, smoking more cigarettes or inhaling the smoke more deeply. “Light” or “mild” cigarettes kill just like regular cigarettes do, and health experts are not enthusiastic about “organic” and “natural” cigarettes on the market either, since the lack of other additives doesn’t change the fact that tobacco kills. And it really does – millions of people each year in the world, regardless of whether they smoke “light”, “natural” or any other cigarettes…

A Healthy Lifestyle Does Not Make Up for the Negative Effects of Smoking


Many smokers believe that their nasty habit is easily counterweighted with an otherwise healthy lifestyle that includes healthy nutrition and regular physical activity. Although these things certainly are great for overall health, they do not prevent the possible negative effects that come from smoking. Research even shows that they generally don’t even reduce most health risks associated with smoking.

Believing that a nasty habit such as smoking doesn’t really hurt the health if someone lives an otherwise healthy lifestyle is thus completely untrue. Athletes, vegetarians and nutritional specialists die from smoking just as regular people do …

Just Cutting Back on Your Smoking Won’t Really Make You Any Healthier

Smoking facts reveal a very popular myth among smokers: cutting down on the number of daily cigarettes is an effective strategy for preventing health problems. It is not. It might slow down the process of hurting one’s body for some and it might even slightly decrease the risk of getting a serious smoking-related disease for some, but the most effective strategy by far is still a complete cessation.

Smokers often decide to cut back on smoking instead of stopping completely because they think it is easier, but even that might be a big lie. Research shows that most ex-smokers who quit successfully did so by quitting completely.

Quitting Smoking Can Significantly Improve Your Sex Life

Male smokers who have problems in the bedroom should forget about taking Viagra or similar medicine – quitting smoking will suffice for a better sex life in most cases. Studies show that men who quit smoking have firmer erections and achieve arousal (but not climax!) sooner than those who continue smoking. Some studies even suggest that 3 in 4 smokers suffering from erectile dysfunction stop having problems after they quit smoking.

Problems with erection do not only cause the inability to have sex or father children, but also have a broader effect on the overall quality of life, since they can cause severe emotional problems and issues in relationships. Men of the world, stop smoking!

Tobacco is Subject to Special Taxes in Most Countries of the World

There have been great improvements in preventing tobacco addiction and related health issues in many parts of the world in recent decades. One of the most efficient strategies remains subjecting tobacco markets to special taxes and consequently raising the price of cigarettes.

For example, Denmark introduced a very high tax of $4.02 per pack in 1997, but there are many countries in the world where smoking is still a big part of the national culture, causing the tax burdens to be very forgiving to the tobacco industry. One such country is Taiwan, with a tax burden of only $0.62 per pack. And how is the USA doing in this regard? Taxation on tobacco varies greatly from state to state: Missouri has the lowest cigarette tax of only $0.17 per pack, while New York’s tax is $4.35!

Smoking Facts — Facts about Smoking Summary

Smoking FactsSmoking is a nasty habit and a potentially lethal addiction that is difficult to give up unaided. Most people fail in their first attempts of quitting, but when they succeed, they greatly decrease their risk of suffering from serious health conditions such as cancer or heart disease. In addition to these health issues, smoking also causes several non-health related problems such as social alienation, unpleasant smell and ugly skin. Nearly half a million people die from smoking in the USA each year, and more than 40,000 of those are non-smokers who die as a result of second-hand smoking. Statistically speaking, a typical US smoker is a male who started smoking prior to his 21st birthday, lives below the poverty level and has a lower level of education.

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