Cigarette Smoking and Secondhand Smoke

Smoking, Vaping, and COVID-19

Adults who currently smoke cigarettes or who are former smokers, and people living with certain medical conditions that are often caused by smoking, such as cancer and COPD, are at increased risk of developing severe illness if they get COVID-19. To learn more and for help quitting smoking, visit Smoking, Vaping, and COVID-19.

All commercial tobacco use is harmful, especially cigarette smoking. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.1 Cigarette smoking causes nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the U.S.1,2,3 Cigarette smoking kills more people every year than alcohol use, illegal drug use, motor vehicle crashes, firearm-related incidents, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) combined.4 Learn more at Smoking and Tobacco Use – Basic Information.

Cigarette Smoking in New York State

Cigarette smoking rates among New York State (NYS) youth and adults are at record lows. The combined actions and efforts of the New York State Tobacco Control Program, communities, health systems, organizations, stakeholders, and state and local legislation have led to these decreases.

However, cigarette smoking is still a problem. In NYS:

  • Nearly 1.7 million adults in NYS still smoke.5
  • Cigarette smoking kills nearly 21,000 adult New Yorkers every year. Another 1,384 New Yorkers of all ages die every year from exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke.6
  • Inequities in cigarette smoking persist in New York State and nationally. Adults who are enrolled in Medicaid, are unemployed, have yearly incomes of less than $25,000, report frequent mental distress, have less than a high school education, or live with disability smoke at much higher rates than the general adult population.5 For more information, see Cigarette Smoking – New York State Adults, 2020. To learn more about the health inequities of cigarette smoking in the U.S., visit Health Disparities Related to Commercial Tobacco and Advancing Health Equity.
  • Although the youth smoking rate in NYS is the lowest on record,7 the alarmingly high rate of e-cigarette use among high school-age young people is a major cause of concern. Young people who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future.8 For NYS-specific information on youth tobacco use, see this one-page report, Milestones in Tobacco Control: Youth Tobacco Use Declines Across All Product Types in 2020, Lowest Youth Smoking Rate on Record. To get the facts about electronic cigarettes, their health effects, and the risks of using e-cigarettes, visit Electronic Cigarettes.

Cigarette Smoking Causes Death and Disease

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in New York State and nationally.1

Cigarettes smoking and secondhand smoke exposure cause the loss of nearly 550,000 potential healthy life years every year due to premature death or disability in NYS.6 Chronic illnesses associated with smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can lead people to live for years with disability and dramatically reduce their quality of life.6

Smoking can cause many diseases and conditions, including:

  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Cancer almost anywhere in the body
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)9
  • Cigarette smoking can make it harder to become pregnant and can damage sperm, affecting fertility. Babies born to people who smoke can be born too early, have a birth defect, or die from sudden infant syndrome (SIDS).9, 10 For more information, see Smoking During Pregnancy.

To learn more about the harms of cigarette smoking and tobacco use, visit:

Secondhand Cigarette Smoke is Harmful and Deadly

There is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke. There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, including hundreds of toxic chemicals.11 About 70 of the chemicals in secondhand smoke can cause cancer.11

In NYS, nearly 1,400 deaths a year are attributable to secondhand smoke exposure.6 In the U.S., secondhand smoke exposure contributes to the deaths of about 41,000 nonsmoking adults and 400 infants each year.11,12

In adults who have never smoked, exposure to secondhand smoke can cause heart disease, lung cancer, and stroke.11

Children exposed to secondhand smoke:

  • Can have more frequent and severe asthma attacks.
  • Are more likely to get ear infections.
  • Can have more breathing problems, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
  • Can have lower respiratory infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.11,12

For more information on the harms of secondhand smoke exposure for children and adults, visit:

Quitting Is Good For You and Everyone Around You

It is never too late to quit smoking. Quitting cigarette smoking is one of the most important things you can do for your health.

Although most adults who smoke cigarettes and most youth who use tobacco products want to quit, the highly addictive nicotine in tobacco can make it hard to quit.13 Quitting smoking at any age helps you, no matter how long or how much you have smoked.14 And when you quit smoking, you protect your family, pets, friends, and the people around you from secondhand smoke exposure.14,15

Learn more about the Benefits of Quitting. For information on quit assistance in New York State, visit Quit Help and Information.

Ready to Quit Smoking or Thinking About It?

Quitting can be hard, but you don't have to do it alone. Your ability to quit for good increases with effective and evidence-based treatment from your health care provider.16

While nicotine withdrawal may be hard to manage at times, the benefits of quitting smoking outweigh the symptoms, which fade over time. Nicotine withdrawal may be uncomfortable but is not dangerous. Quit-smoking medicines approved by the FDA can help you manage symptoms of nicotine withdrawal until your body gets used to being nicotine free again.16 For more information on managing nicotine withdrawal, visit 7 Common Withdrawal Symptoms and Managing Withdrawal.

Talk to your health care provider for help in quitting. Most insurances, including Medicaid, cover treatment proven to help you quit.

For more information and help quitting, visit:

References

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: 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. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You. Atlanta: 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, 2010.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. QuickStats: Number of Deaths from 10 Leading Causes—National Vital Statistics System, United States, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2013:62(08);155.
  4. Mokdad AH, Marks JS, Stroup DF, Gerberding JL. Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000. JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association 2004;291(10):1238–45.
  5. New York State Department of Health. https://www.health.ny.gov/statistics/brfss/reports/docs/2022-12_brfss_cigarette_smoking.pdf. BRFSS Brief, No. 2022-12.
  6. New York State Department of Health. The Health and Economic Burden of Smoking in New York. November 2020.
  7. New York State Department of Health. Milestones in Tobacco Control: Youth Tobacco Use Declines Across All Product Types in 2020, Lowest Youth Smoking Rate on Record. Bureau of Tobacco Control. StatShot Vol. 14, No.3/September 2021.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Quick Facts on the Risks of E-cigarettes for Kids, Teens, and Young Adults. Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Page last reviewed: January 24, 2022
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Tobacco Use. Health Effects of Cigarettes Smoking. Page last reviewed: October 29, 2021.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips From Former Smokers® - Smoking, Pregnancy and Babies. Page last reviewed: February 8, 2022.
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke. Page last reviewed: February 27, 2020.
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Tobacco Use. Secondhand Smoke. Page last reviewed: March 2, 2021.
  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to Quit. Page last reviewed June 17, 2021.
  14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and Tobacco Use. Benefits of Quitting. Page last reviewed September 23, 2020.
  15. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Secondhand (and Third-Hand) Smoke May Be Making Your Pet Sick. Content current as of August 26, 2021.
  16. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking Cessation. A Report of the Surgeon General. 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, 2020.