- Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand, accounting for around 4300 to 4600 deaths per year.1
- Half of the people who smoke today and continue smoking will eventually be killed by tobacco.2
Half of them will die in middle age.3
- Globally, 1.3 billion people smoke. Each year tobacco causes five million premature deaths.4
- Tobacco use is currently responsible for the death of one in ten adults worldwide. If current smoking
patterns continue, it will cause some 10 million deaths each year by 2020.5
- Smoking increases the risk of developing diseases of the respiratory and
circulatory systems. These include cancers of the lung, oral cavity, pharynx,
larynx, oesophagus and pancreas.6 Smoking also increases the risk of
developing diseases of the urinary tract, pelvis, bladder and digestive tract.7
- Smoking causes one in four of all cancer deaths in New Zealand.8
- Tobacco is the only consumer product that kills half its users when used as the manufacturer intends.
- When you smoke you inhale more than 4000 chemicals including acetone (paint stripper), ammonia (toilet cleaner),
cyanide (rat killer), DDT (insecticide) and carbon monoxide (car exhaust fumes).9
- Smoking is a major cause of blindness, with about 1300 people in New Zealand having untreatable blindness due to current
and past smoking.10
- Tobacco plays a significant role in health inequalities within New Zealand. Higher smoking prevalence seen among
low-income groups, Māori and Pacific peoples.11
- Second-hand smoke is the leading environmental cause of preventable death in NZ.
Around 350 New Zealanders are killed by others people’s tobacco smoke each year.
- Second-hand smoke has been shown to cause:
- coronary heart-disease
- lung cancer
- acute stroke
- eye and nasal irritation
- nasal sinus cancer.
- Twenty-five percent of the population suffers from asthma, heart disease, emphysema, cystic fibrosis and other medical
conditions that are exacerbated by second-hand smoke.
- The effects on children of exposure to second-hand smoke include:
- greater chances of hospital care in their first year
- more susceptibility to coughs, cold and wheezes
- increased chances of becoming smokers themselves
- greater risks of glue ear, chest infections, meningococcal disease and SIDS.
- Māori children have greater exposure to second-hand smoke than non-Māori children.
- Adults who have never smoked and who live with smokers have a 15 percent higher risk of death than those living in a
smokefree household.12 This study strengthens the case for a causal association between second-hand smoke and mortality,
and adds weight to the evidence of harm caused by passive smoking. It also supports steps to reduce exposure to other
people's smoke - in the home and in other settings.
The unexpected ways smoking harms your body
The message is echoed across doctors' offices, hospitals, schools, the news, ad campaigns, public health initiatives and beyond: Smoking is bad for you.
Even if smoking doesn't kill you, it most likely will dramatically hinder your quality of life.
"Smoking damages every single organ – every single cell – in your entire body," says Dr George Tu, MD, FCCP, DABSM, a pulmonologist at the Lung Center of Nevada.
Because of its wide-reaching effects in the body, smoking also causes and contributes to many lesser-known diseases and conditions.
Read this excellent article in the Las Vegas Sun on the ways you may not have realised that smoking harms the body.
- Your heart and lungs aren’t the only organs in danger
- How smoking affects the entire body
- Cancers caused by smoking
- Heart and lungs
- Are e-cigarettes safer?
- How to quit.
Rheumatoid arthritis and smoking
What's in tobacco?
Tobacco smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, many of which are highly toxic.
It includes 40 known cancer-causing substances.
- is a sticky brown substance which stains fingers, teeth and lungs
- is inhaled in tobacco smoke
- includes nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.
A pack a day smoker inhales 150ml of tar per year.
Carbon Monoxide (CO):
- is a poisonous gas (found in car exhaust fumes as well)
- takes the place of oxygen (O2) in the blood
- in combination with nicotine is thought to cause heart disease.
The amount inhaled varies according to how a cigarette is smoked and the way cigarettes are manufactured.
Hydrogen Cyanide (HCn):
- damages lung-clearing system (think snot!) causing accumulation of toxic agents in lungs.
Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco.
- is a powerful naturally occurring drug - causes addiction, highly toxic
- raises the heart rate, and blood pressure and slows circulation (lowers
- causes rapid shallow breathing
- is both a relaxant and a stimulant - it changes brain activity - improving reaction times, ability to pay attention and brings on
euphoria... hence addictive
- affects appetite – possibly due to inhibiting insulin release, leading to hyperglycemia
- increases basal metabolic rate - which is the energy a person uses at
complete rest. (The body is always using energy for essential functions such as
building new cells, keeping the heart beating, breathing, sending messages
through the nerves and for warmth).
Approximately 1mg of nicotine is absorbed by the body, per cigarette smoked, going almost directly to the brain.
8-20mg is contained in each cigarette.
Tobacco contains a large number of additives, including ammonia, menthol and sweetener.
1 Peto, R., Lopez, A., et al. (2000). Mortality from Smoking in Developed Countries 1950 – 2000:
Indirect estimates from national vital statistics. New York: Oxford University Press.
2 World Health Organization. Why is tobacco a public health priority? Tobacco Free Initiative.
3 Peto, R., Lopez, A., et al. (2000). Mortality from Smoking in Developed Countries 1950 – 2000: Indirect estimates
from national vital statistics. New York: Oxford University Press.
4 World Health Organization. Why is tobacco a public health priority? Tobacco Free Initiative.
6 Vineis, P., Alavanja, M., et al. (2004). Tobacco and cancer: recent epidemiological evidence.
Journal of National Cancer Institute 96: 99-106.
7 Ministry of Health. (2005). Tobacco Facts 2005. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
8 Laugesen, M. (2000). Tobacco Statistics 2000. Wellington: Cancer Society of New Zealand.
9 The Quit Group and the Health Sponsorship Council. (2000). Break Free. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
10 Wilson, G., et al. (2001). Smoke gets in your eyes: smoking and visual impairment in New Zealand. NZ Med J,
11 Hill, S., Blakely, T., Howden-Chapman, P. (2003). Smoking Inequalities: Policies and patterns of tobacco use
in New Zealand. 1981 to 1996. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
12 Hill, S., Blakely, T., et al. (2004). Increased mortality amongst never-smokers living with smokers: evidence
from two New Zealand cohorts 1981-84 and 1996-99. BMJ, 2004, 328 (7446), 988-9.