Harmful effects of smoking

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease, including cancer, in the developed world. In Australia, smoking causes around one in five cancer deaths, which includes more than 3400 deaths in Queensland each year.

Smoking and cancer

Smoking is known to cause lung cancer, and is a major risk factor in the following cancers:

Quitting smoking

If you are a smoker, you should quit. There is no safe level of tobacco use and your smoking may harm others. There are many benefits to quitting smoking. Research shows that quitting smoking, even after a cancer diagnosis, can increase your life expectancy.

Smoking is addictive and many smokers find quitting difficult. Seek support and don’t be discouraged if it takes a few attempts before you are able to quit for good.

Benefits of quitting

You will experience health benefits as soon as you put out your last cigarette, even if you already suffer health problems.

12 hours The level of carbon monoxide in your blood drops dramatically
72 hours Your sense of taste and smell improves
2 weeks Lung function and circulation improves
1 month Coughing and shortness of breath decrease
1 year Risk of coronary heart disease is halved compared to continuing smokers
5 years Risk of stroke is reduced and the risk of mouth and throat cancer decreases
10 years Risk of lung cancer death is halved
15 years Risk of heart disease is the same as someone who has never smoked

How to quit smoking

Quitting smoking is hard, but there is a lot of support to help you. When you are ready to quit, contact Quitline 13 QUIT (13 7848) or speak to a health professional. These services can help you:

  • Better understand why and when you smoke
  • Choose a way to quit that is safe, effective and suits you
  • Learn more about what to expect after quitting, including coping with withdrawal symptoms.

Tips to quit

  • Set a quit date so you can be mentally ready to become a non-smoker. Record your smoking behaviour in the few weeks leading up so you have a better understanding of how many cigarettes you smoke and what your triggers and habits are.
  • Write down your reasons for quitting. Keep these in your wallet and refer to them when you have strong cravings.
  • Stay busy. Occupy yourself with a task when a craving strikes.
  • Get rid of anything that might make you want to smoke. Throw away cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays in your home.
  • Get plenty of support. Ask your friends and family to support you and keep you on track. If you live or work with other people who smoke, ask them to quit with you. Contact Quitline 13 Quit (13 7848) 7am – 10pm, 7 days a week for support and encouragement to quit or visit quitnow.org.au
  • Visit QUIT HQ to start your journey

Use the Smoking Cessation Pathway

The smoking cessation pathway is a tool to assist staff in the social and community service sector to talk to their clients about smoking. Download the pathway and follow the simple steps to support your clients to quit smoking. 

Smoking cessation pathway 

Creating a supportive environment

A comprehensive smoke-free policy will help your organisation create a supportive environment for staff and clients to quit smoking. Smoke-free environments protect non-smokers from the dangers of second-hand smoke and support smokers who are trying to quit and reduce overall cigarette consumption. 

A comprehensive smoke-free policy will include: 

  • A rationale for the policy. 
  • Details of the locations that are smoke-free and any designated outdoor smoking areas. 
  • What smoke-free support is available for staff and clients. 
  • A procedure for non-compliance of the policy. 

Create a smoke-free environment in your organisation: 

Policy template 

No smoking sign 

Fresh air zone sign

Online resources and support

Quit now is a website that provides information and tools to support people to quit smoking. Detailed information is provided on why and how to quit. 

QuitHQ is an interactive website to support people to quit smoking. The website also provides information for health professionals and current smoking laws in Queensland. 

Quit Coach is a free interactive website that can help people quit smoking. Quit coach provides strategies to help resist smoking and helps people to understand their addiction.

Harm to others

If you smoke, you may be harming those around you with the smoke you exhale. This is known as second-hand or passive smoke.

If you do not smoke, but spend time with smokers, you still have an increased risk of cancer. There is no safe level of tobacco smoke exposure.

Babies and children are particularly at risk of the health effects of passive smoking, as their lungs and immune systems are still developing. To protect your family, keep your home and car smoke-free.


E-cigarettes are battery operated devices. They heat liquid into a vapour that is inhaled into the lungs. E-cigarette liquids are in a cartridge or refillable tank. When the liquid is heated it can produce dangerous chemicals.

Do e-cigarettes help you quit smoking?

E-cigarettes are not approved as an aid to stop smoking by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). There is not enough evidence to show they help people quit. Products approved to help stop smoking include nicotine replacement patches, gum, lozenges, inhalators and mouth sprays.

Are e-cigarettes legal?

E-cigarettes are smoking products in Queensland under the Tobacco and Other Products Act 1998. This means that e-cigarettes cannot be;

  • used in no-smoking indoor and outdoor places
  • sold to children under 18 years of age
  • advertised, promoted or displayed at retail outlets.

Liquid nicotine is classified as a ‘Dangerous Poison’ (schedule 7 – Federal Poisons Standard). It can only be sold for therapeutic use if it has been approved by the TGA.

For more information about e-cigarettes see the Cancer Council National Cancer Control Policy

Cancer Council Queensland has worked with the Queensland Government to introduce some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in Australia. Find out more about smoking legislation.

Smoke-drift in multi-unit housing

Smoke-drift in multi-unit housing is a common complaint of residents who are exposed to smoke from a neighbouring unit. Find out more in our information sheets.

For more information on quitting smoking, contact your doctor; call Cancer Council 13 11 20 or Quitline 13 QUIT (13 7848) or visit www.quitnow.gov.au

The information available on this page should not be used as a substitute for advice from a properly qualified medical professional who can advise you about your own individual medical needs. It is not intended to constitute medical advice and is provided for general information purposes only. See our disclaimer.