Get Help

Call the Lung Health Line


Our certified respiratory
educators are ready to take your questions
(M-F 8:30am-4:30pm)

smoking facts

Smoking facts

A cigarette is the only product that when used as intended kills one in two of its users. In Ontario alone, 13,000 people are killed annually by smoking, which translates to 36 people a day. Nationwide, this accounts for 37,000 Canadian deaths. Second-hand smoke can be just as harmful, and evidence shows that third-hand smoke, such as fumes trapped in furniture, carpet and fabric, is also dangerous.

Learn about the health effects of smoking, what is in a cigarette and how to prevent children and youth from starting to smoke.

Health effects
Cigarettes and other tobacco products, including cigars and forms of chewing tobacco, cause or worsen many diseases. Smoking harms nearly every organ in the human body. Long-term health effects of smoking include decreased lung capacity, coronary heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other cancers and diseases. Smoking is the primary cause of 80-90% of cases of COPD.

It is common to minimize symptoms and signs of lung damage including coughing, feeling out of breath when walking up a short flight of stairs, spitting up mucus or experiencing repeated chest infections. The good news is you can see the health benefits within 20 minutes of not smoking. If you or someone you love is thinking about quitting, please click here for information.

What is in a cigarette?
Cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive drug. When nicotine enters your body, it goes straight to your brain and may temporarily make you feel good. However, the more you smoke, the more your body builds a tolerance, requiring nicotine to maintain that feeling.  Always wanting to smoke means you are addicted to nicotine.

Each cigarette also has 4,000 chemicals, including known cancer-causing compounds (carcinogens). These include:

  • Acetone (paint stripper, nail polish remover
  • Ammonia (toilet cleaner)
  • Methanol (rocket fuel)
  • Arsenic (poison)
  • Benzene (petrol fumes)

Stopping young people from starting
Research tells us that almost no one starts using tobacco after the age of 24. That’s why the best way to prevent deaths from smoking is to make sure children and youth never start. Evidence shows that those who begin smoking from a younger age are more likely to become addicted and develop smoking-related diseases as they age.

The Lung Association-Ontario is working to prevent children from starting to smoke. In partnership with Mad Science, a leading science enrichment provider, the organization is bringing an interactive demonstration, Be Tobacco Free, to Grade 4 classrooms across Ontario. This is an educational and entertaining program that shows the health risks of tobacco use. Through science experiments, children experience the unpleasant and unhealthy aspects of smoking.

We must educate children on the dangers of tobacco use to prevent them from experimenting and becoming addicted. As parents, you can set a positive example by not smoking and keeping your home smoke free. If you do smoke, take steps to quit. Together, we can work toward creating a tobacco-free generation.