Tobacco Products

Heart Health and Smoking

When it comes to understanding the health risks of smoking, most people think first about its impact on the lungs. The truth is that smoking can hurt almost any part of your body—including your heart.

X-ray heart anatomy

Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease. Photo: CLIPAREA | Custom media/Shutterstock.com

There is already research available documenting how smoking hurts not only your heart but also your entire cardiovascular system.

Did you know:

  • Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which includes coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and heart-related chest pain. CVD is the leading cause of all deaths in the United States, killing more than 800,000 people a year. 1
  • Cigarette smokers are 2–4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers. 4
  • Smoking during adolescence and young adulthood causes early damage to the abdominal aorta, the large artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart through the abdomen to major organs. 2
  • Even young adults who have only been smoking for a few years can show signs of narrowing of this large artery. 
  • Smoking causes immediate damage to blood vessels throughout the body. 2
  • Any amount of smoking, even smoking a few cigarettes now and then, can damage the heart and blood vessels. 1

The impact isn’t limited to smokers themselves, either.

  • Breathing tobacco smoke can damage the hearts and blood vessels of nonsmokers in the same way it harms smokers. 1, 3
  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to get heart disease, have a heart attack, or stroke. 3
  • More than 33,000 nonsmokers die every year in the United States from coronary heart disease caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. 1

public education iconCTP supported research includes a number of studies on the impact of tobacco use on cardiovascular disease, including through a grant awarded to the American Heart Association’s Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (TCORS)  —a multidisciplinary research program dedicated to understanding tobacco’s effects on the heart and cardiovascular system. These research studies look at and beyond cigarette smoking to focus on really understanding how ALL tobacco products affect these delicate systems. 

The information we gain from these studies will help us determine not only how we might do more to help keep people safe from the dangerous effects of tobacco use through effective regulation but also help people better understand the many serious risks of tobacco for people who use it, as well as their friends and families. As the research shows, the stakes are high not just for the lungs, but for the heart as well. This month as we focus on the importance of cardiovascular health, now is the right time to take a moment to consider these risks, and consider the value of lifestyle changes that will lead to a healthier life.


1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). Let’s Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free: Your Guide to the 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health (Consumer Booklet). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). A Report of the Surgeon General: Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults. We Can Make the Next Generation Tobacco-Free (Consumer Booklet). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2012.

3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General (Consumer Summary). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2006.

4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS). Reducing the Health Consequences of Smoking - 25 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General (Executive Summary). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 1989.


 

Page Last Updated: 10/14/2016
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