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 indicates 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 several 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 quitting method 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 become 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

Harm to others

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

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

Babies and children are particularly susceptible to 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.

Legislation

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 that are exposed to smoke from a neighbouring unit. Find out more in our information sheets.

More information

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

You can also visit Cancer Council’s cut your cancer risk website.

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.