How to stop smoking

Why is smoking bad for me?

Tobacco smoke contains over 5,000 chemicals including tar and nicotine. Smokers smoke for the nicotine but are harmed by the tar.

We know more than 70 of these chemicals cause cancer. Others are poisonous. When you smoke, these chemicals go straight into your lungs and through them to the rest of your body.

Smoking tobacco is the biggest avoidable cause of death. On average, smokers live 10 years less than non-smokers. 

There’s no safe way to use tobacco:

  • Smoking cigars and pipes is just as bad for you as smoking cigarettes.
  • Roll-up tobacco smoke contains exactly the same chemicals as manufactured cigarette smoke. Roll-ups are often made without filters so can be even more dangerous than ordinary cigarettes.
  • Shisha smoking, also called hookah or waterpipe, also contains tobacco. The smoke goes through water, but it’s just as harmful as normal cigarette smoke.
  • Smokeless tobacco - tobacco that is chewed or sucked – is also highly addictive and harmful. 

What about e-cigarettes?

Woman using an e-cigaretteE-cigarettes are a less harmful way to receive nicotine. Unlike tobacco smoke, their vapour doesn’t contain tar.

There’s very little evidence yet about their impact on your health. But experts agree it’s unlikely to be more than 5% of the harm of smoking and e-cigarettes can be useful to help you quit.

Inhaling any smoke is harmful

This includes smoking other substances such as cannabis. You can become addicted to cannabis, and its smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals. If you mix cannabis with tobacco and smoke it, you’re at risk of becoming addicted to nicotine too.

Why am I addicted to smoking?

The tobacco industry has designed and modified cigarettes to make them as addictive as possible. The nicotine in tobacco gets rapidly into your brain and creates an addiction or craving. The falling level of nicotine in your brain creates the craving to smoke. Controlling these cravings is the key to being able to kick the habit.

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Last medically reviewed: February 2016. Due for review: February 2019

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.