Campus Health

Health Education

Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

Smoking Tobacco

People begin smoking for many reasons—some start smoking to try to fit in with their peers, others begin because smokers often get to take more frequent breaks from work. Some people begin smoking because they hear smokers talking about the reasons why they smoke, such as stress relief or preventing weight gain. Regardless of the reasons why people smoke, it is important to recognize that the risks far outweigh any benefit you think smoking might provide.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, killing more than 400,000 Americans every year. The dangers of smoking are well-known, but millions continue to smoke and to begin smoking each year. The reasons for starting to smoke are numerous and different for everyone—stress relief, weight loss, peer pressure, and social environment are just a few examples. The reason people continue to smoke is simple—it's hard to quit. Many smokers are addicted to the nicotine that each cigarette contains, and studies have shown that breaking addiction to nicotine is just as hard as breaking addiction to heroin. Even though quitting is difficult, two-thirds of smokers wish to quit.


When deciding whether or not to start smoking or if you are ready to quit, it is important to consider the consequences. Here are some things to consider:

Your Wallet

  1. Smoking is expensive. A pack-a-day smoker will spend roughly $1095 a year on cigarettes! Think of all the other things you could do with that money—a spring break trip, a new wardrobe, a down-payment on a car—the possibilities are endless! A smoking cost calculator can be found at Tobacco Free U.
  2. Your insurance premiums will be more expensive. If you are a smoker, your insurance premiums go up because you cost more to insure. Life insurance, health insurance, homeowners’ insurance, renters' insurance, and even auto insurance premiums can all be impacted!
  3. You may have trouble finding a job. Employers are refusing to hire smokers because of the loss of productivity they incur over non-smokers due to more frequent breaks and more time off work for illness.

Your Appearance

  1. You might get what is known as "smoker’s face." A grayish appearance of skin and deep lines around the eyes and mouth are common among smokers because of the lack of oxygen to the skin from smoking.
  2. Your teeth and fingernails may yellow from the tar in the cigarettes, and you will have bad breath.
  3. You might age more quickly than non-smokers; smokers get more pronounced wrinkles earlier because smoking constricts the blood vessels in the face.
  4. Think about it—is it really sexy to have a "cancer stick" hanging out of your mouth, burns in your clothing, ashes all over the place, and a stench of smoke?

Your Health

  1. Smoking quickens your pulse and causes your heart to beat an extra 10-25 times per minute (as many as 36,000 extra times each day). As a result, the heart has to work harder, which increases the risk of a heart attack. Cigarette smoking is directly responsible for at least 20% of all deaths from heart disease each year.
  2. Cigarette smoke attacks the lungs' natural defenses and can completely paralyze the natural cleansing process. Excess mucus in the lungs will make you more susceptible to colds, flu, bronchitis, and other respiratory infections. Continued exposure can lead to lung cancer and lung diseases like pneumonia and emphysema.
  3. Eighty percent of all lung cancer cases are attributed to cigarette smoking. Lung cancer, however, is just one of the cancer risks of smoking. Cigarette smoking also can lead to cancers of the larynx, mouth, esophagus, bladder, pancreas, kidney, and stomach.
  4. Smokers have a higher risk of developing macular degeneration (eye disease that causes blindness) and cataracts than non-smokers.
  5. Formaldehyde, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, and the many other chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause serious irritation to the sensitive membranes in the nose and throat. As a result, smokers experience runny noses and "smoker’s cough." The cellular changes that can occur as a result of this exposure is linked to throat cancer. Tobacco companies add menthol to cigarettes to soothe the irritation to the throat and nose, but studies have shown that people who smoke menthol cigarettes are more likely to inhale more smoke and hold it in their lungs longer, increasing the risk for development of lung cancer.
  6. Smoking causes negative effects to the reproductive systems of both men and women. Men can experience erectile dysfunction, impotency, and low sperm count and mobility. Women can experience a reduction in their reproductive years and a decline in fertility. Female smokers are three times more likely to be infertile and reach menopause earlier than nonsmokers. Smoking has also been linked to the development of breast cancer.
  7. Smokers experience a greater risk of developing osteoporosis than nonsmokers. Bone loss can lead to an increase in bone fractures.
  8. The carbon monoxide a smoker inhales attacks red blood cells and replaces oxygen your body needs to function. The carbon monoxide can stay in the bloodstream for up to six hours, meaning that less oxygen reaches the brain and other vital organs during this time.
  9. Smokers are at a greater risk for developing digestive disorders such as peptic ulcers, Crohn’s disease, gallstones, and chronic heartburn. Smoking also affects the way the liver operates and affects the way it processes alcohol.

The bottom line? Smoking has damaging effects on all areas of your life! Thinking about quitting? Visit Cessation for tips and resources.