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Smoking and Cigarettes

Cigarettes are tobacco industry products made of chopped tobacco leaves (that contain nicotine, a highly addictive drug) and more than 7,000 chemicals.

Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in Canada, with tobacco-related diseases killing about 48,000 Canadians every year. That is higher than the number of people killed in traffic accidents in Canada and the United States combined.

With every cigarette smoked, chemicals are inhaled, such as:

  • Tar, mercury, lead
  • Acetone (nail polish remover)
  • Arsenic (white ant poison)
  • Hydrogen cyanide (poisonous gas)

More than two dozen diseases and conditions have been linked to smoking and affect almost every organ in the body. Locally, smoking-related health conditions cause an average of 861 deaths, 3,516 hospitalizations, and 7,058 emergency room visits each year.

In Canada, over 85% of lung cancers are related to smoking. The risk of getting lung cancer depends on how long someone smokes, their age when they started smoking, and how much is smoked each day.

Cigarettes are just one of the commercial tobacco products known to have health effects. Our website also has information about other products, such as e-cigarettes and vaping products.

Nicotine addiction involves a variety of factors that make quitting hard, even if the person wants to.

Over time, people with nicotine addiction may no longer feel pleasure from using commercial tobacco of vapour products. However, they continue using them because they have cravings and want to avoid withdrawal from nicotine which can make them feel irritable, restless, anxious, unable to sleep, have difficulty concentrating, and feel tired. These symptoms usually stop a couple of weeks after quitting. However, some people continue to have strong nicotine cravings for weeks and months.

"Triggers" are a sign of nicotine addiction that develop from connecting commercial tobacco and/or vapour product use with everyday moments. For example, some people smoke while drinking their morning coffee or vape while driving to work. Triggers also make quitting difficult, but not impossible. 

If you or someone you care about smokes or vapes and wants to quit or cut back, support is available! You can find more information here.

Smoking doesn't only affect the person who smokes.

Secondhand smoke (SHS) is the smoke created from burning commercial tobacco, like the lit end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by someone smoking.

Secondhand smoke contains toxic materials that can cause cancers. As a result, SHS exposure is a main risk factor for lung cancer among people who do not smoke. Health Canada estimates that more than 800 non-smokers die every year from breathing SHS. There is no safe level of exposure. If you can smell it, you are breathing it.

More information about secondhand smoke can be found on our website here.

During pregnancy, smoking deprives an unborn baby of needed oxygen and other nutrients. This may result in:

  • Problems with intellectual ability and behaviour
  • Low birth weight that puts baby at risk
  • Reduced lung function
  • Miscarriage
  • Complications in pregnancy
  • Stillbirth

It also puts babies at an increased risk of dying from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) after birth.

More information about smoking and pregnancy can be found here.

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