Cigarettes: the hard truth

A body showing 16 cancers smokers have a higher risk of developing: mouth, lung, liver, etc.

Smoking shortens lives

Smokers have a higher risk of developing at least 16 different types of cancer. Unless they quit, up to half of all smokers will die from smoking-related illnesses. Most smokers die about 10 years earlier than someone who has never smoked.
A body showing 16 cancers smokers have a higher risk of developing: mouth, lung, liver, etc.

Did you know?

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada. About 72% of lung cancer cases in Canada are due to smoking tobacco.

Smokers are about 20 times more likely to develop lung cancer than non-smokers. The longer a person smokes and the more cigarettes they smoke each day, the more their risk increases. Smokers are also at a higher risk if they’re exposed to radon or certain chemicals in their home or workplace and continue to smoke.

Tobacco use is the number 1 risk factor for preventable disease and death in Canada. Find out about our advocacy work in tobacco control.

Top 6 reasons people say they smoke

"I'm addicted."

Nicotine is a powerful, addictive drug that enters the brain with each puff on a cigarette. It briefly boosts your mood, making you feel calm and more alert. But over time, your energy level and mood can drop, causing you to crave a cigarette for another boost. The more you smoke, the more nicotine you need, which then leads to more smoking.

Good news: you can beat your addiction and win. Many Canadians have found success with quitlines, nicotine replacement therapies and other support.

"It's relaxing."

Many smokers believe that smoking relaxes them. In fact, it does the opposite to your body. Smoking makes your heart beat faster, your breathing quicken and your blood pressure rise.

Why do some smokers feel relaxed when they smoke? Smoking releases dopamine – a chemical in your brain that creates feelings of pleasure. But this feeling of relaxation lasts for only a few moments. Often, it’s not the cigarette, but taking a break from work or a stressful situation that is the real relaxation.

"It helps maintain my weight."
It’s true that nicotine can suppress your appetite and may increase your metabolism slightly. But smoking puts an enormous amount of stress on your heart and lungs. There are healthier and much less expensive ways to manage your diet than smoking.
"It helps me stay focused."
Smokers often say that smoking helps them concentrate and stay focused. That’s because nicotine is a stimulant. Unfortunately, smoking also blocks blood vessels, arteries and veins, starving the brain of the oxygen it needs to function properly. The good news is that non-smokers find ways to maintain focus – without the high price of smoking.
"It's a social thing I do with my friends."
It’s easy to believe that smoking is part of the reason you have a good time with friends who also smoke. But chances are you’d have just as much – or more – fun without the cigarettes. Old behaviours may be powerful, but with the many restrictions on smoking in public places, it’s easier than ever to be social without cigarettes.
"I'm afraid the quitting process will be awful."
Some people who smoke may be worried about the symptoms of withdrawal. Dealing with withdrawal can be hard, but there are tools to help. Withdrawal symptoms don’t last forever and are a sign that the body is healing. And it won’t be long before you’ll experience the health benefits of quitting.

6 benefits of quitting

Your life will be easier.
Being a smoker is hard work. With so many restrictions on smoking in public places, you have to plan ahead and sneak away to have a cigarette. Not being able to have a cigarette when you want one can make you irritable, taking the fun out of everyday events. And sneaking out of social and family activities can put a strain on relationships. You’ll be surprised how freeing it is to be smoke-free!
You'll save money.
Smoking is expensive. Put the money you would have spent on cigarettes toward something that really makes you happy, whatever that may be!
It will be easier to exercise.

Playing a sport, going to the gym or just living an active life is much easier when you quit smoking.

A smoker’s heart has a harder time keeping up with the demands of exercise, so your body wastes a lot of heartbeats just trying to keep up during exercise. Smoking also affects your lung capacity, your ability to gain and maintain muscle and your overall energy level.

You'll be a better role model for the young people in your life.
The last thing most smokers want is to “inspire” a young person to take up smoking. And most kids today are learning the risks of smoking at a young age, so it’s confusing and upsetting when they see a loved one light up. Going smoke-free will show the young people in your life how strong you are to beat an addiction.
Your body, hair, clothes, home and car will smell better — and be healthier.
Most smokers learn to live with the unpleasant odour of cigarette smoke. But second-hand smoke also travels through the air, landing on carpets, furniture, hair and clothing, and becomes third-hand smoke. Living with that is a little like wearing a thin layer of toxic chemicals all the time. When you quit smoking, you can enjoy the fresh scent of regular life and the knowledge that your home is safer for family, friends and pets too.
Your family and friends will also benefit.
If your loved ones worry about your health because you smoke, they’ll be happy when you quit. You’ll be helping them be healthier too – by not exposing them to second-hand smoke.

Amazing ways your body bounces back — from the minute you stop smoking

Blood pressure monitor

20 minutes after quitting

Your blood pressure and pulse rate return to normal.
A nose

After 8 hours

You can breathe easier. Your oxygen levels are back to normal and your chance of having a heart attack goes down.

After 24 hours

Your lungs start to clear out the mucus. Coughing is actually a good sign.
An open mouth with the tongue showing

After 48 hours

You are nicotine-free. Your sense of taste and smell begins to return.
A beating heart

After 1 year

Your risk of having a heart attack is cut in half.
Slice of cake with a number 10 candle on top

After 10 years

Your risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half. 
Broken cigarette

10 to 15 years after quitting

Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as someone who never smoked.
Broken cigarette

Every cigarette you smoke can take years off your life

It's never too late to quit. When you're ready to quit, every province offers quitline services free of charge to support smokers to quit smoking.

You won't believe how many ingredients are in cigarette smoke

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, many of them poisonous.
Bottle of nail polish remover with a cotton ball


Found in nail polish remover
Ammonia bottles


A common household cleaner
Bottle of poison arsenic


Used in rat poison
Two lighters


Used in lighter fluid
A battery


Used in batteries
Car exhaust giving off fumes

Carbon monoxide

Found in car exhaust fumes
Jar with a snake in embalming fluid


Used as embalming fluid
A rocket taking off


A main component in rocket fuel

More of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke

Acetaldehyde, acrolein, acrylonitrile, aromatic amines, 1,3-butadiene, benzene, benzo[a]pyrene, beryllium, butyraldehyde, chromium (hexavalent), crotonaldehyde, ethylene oxide, hydrogen cyanide, isoprene, lead, 2-naphthylamine, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK), nickel, N’-nitrosoanatabine (NAT), N’-nitrosonornicotine (NNN), polonium-210, propionaldehyde, styrene, toluene, vinyl chloride.

Did you know?

When you smoke, the chemicals in each cigarette mix together to form a sticky goo. This tar sticks to the tiny hairs that line the insides of your lungs (the cilia) – hairs that are supposed to keep your lungs clean by sweeping out dirt and germs. When those hairs are covered in tar, they can’t do their job properly. This is why smokers cough – to spit up the dirt that’s caught in their lungs.

Do you know how to live smoke-free?