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Tobacco use

  • You can help your heart by living a healthy lifestyle.

    People who smoke cigarettes are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than people who do not smoke. They are at an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, circulatory problems, cancer and lung disorders.

    Did you know?

    Smokeless tobacco contains a lot of sugar. This can make it harder to control your glucose levels. Nicotine has effects like both caffeine (""upper") and alcohol ("downer").

    What's in tobacco

    Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. More than 70 can cause cancer.

    Tobacco products include cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS, includes e-cigarettes and JUUL®), smokeless tobacco (dip or chew), cigars, hookahs and pipes.

    Using tobacco exposes your body to chemicals such as:

    • benzene (fuel additive)
    • formaldehyde (embalming fluid)
    • cyanide and arsenic (poisons)
    • methanol (wood alcohol)
    • acetylene (fuel)
    • ammonia (cleaning fluid)
    • acetone (nail polish remover)
    • carbon monoxide (poisonous gas)

    Did you know?

    Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of death in the U.S.

    Cigarette smoking is the most common form of nicotine addiction in the U.S.

    What tobacco does to your heart

    Tobacco use is especially dangerous to your blood vessels and arteries. It can cause atherosclerosis, a build-up of plaque (fatty substances found in your blood). Over time, the plaque hardens and narrows your blood vessels and arteries.

    Smoking also makes the blood vessels and arteries sticky. This leads to "obstructions" in blood flow, meaning that your blood cannot flow easily. The side effects of using tobacco can result in needing stents to keep your blood vessels and arteries open. It can also lead to heart attack or stroke.

    Tobacco use:

    • causes heart disease and stroke
    • increases your heart rate
    • increases your blood pressure
    • lowers your good (HDL) cholesterol
    • can cause irregular heart beats
    • makes your heart work harder (adding stress to scarred or weakened blood vessels and arteries)
    • can interfere with how well your heart medicines work
    • causes heartburn and peptic ulcers
    • can delay healing from surgery

    A damaged heart has to try to cope with the effects of tobacco. Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke can help reverse heart and blood vessel damage and reduce your heart disease risk. 

    What secondhand smoke does to your body

    Secondhand smoke is a mixture of smoke coming from the burning tips of cigarettes, pipes and cigars and smoke exhaled by smokers.

    Anyone around secondhand smoke breathes in the chemicals from the tobacco smoke. Secondhand smoke causes death and disease in people who do not smoke.

    • Secondhand smoke can cause health problems for adults who do not smoke. Each year, secondhand smoke causes about 34,000 deaths from heart disease.
    • Breathing secondhand smoke can:
      • irritate and damage the lining of the airways
      • trigger symptoms such as cough, phlegm, wheezing and breathlessness.

    The only way to protect your family from secondhand smoke is to live in a smoke-free environment. No amount of secondhand smoke is safe.

  • Not Ready to Quit?
    Consider Taking a Break!

    If quitting tobacco seems like too much right now, consider taking a break or a vacation from tobacco use.

    This can help you feel better by restoring balance*.

    • Set a goal to stop using tobacco.
    • Talk with your doctor for resources or ways to cope with withdrawal symptoms.

    If this goes well, maybe you will take more breaks during the year. This could lead to a tobacco-free life!

    *Follow your doctor’s directions for medicine, exercise, diet and other activities.