If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.

Smoking and Chronic Illness

Burning a cigarette releases more than 7,000 chemicals. Over time, exposure to these chemicals damages your body, which can cause chronic diseases. Chronic diseases are conditions that last at least a year and require ongoing medical care. These diseases can reduce your quality of life and cause death. The good news is that quitting smoking now can greatly reduce your risk for developing these conditions.

Heart Disease

Smoking causes about one out of every four deaths due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the U.S. The toxic chemicals released by cigarette smoke cause blood vessels to swell. This can result in conditions like:

  • Atherosclerosis, where your arteries become narrow and less flexible;
  • Coronary heart disease, where arteries that carry blood to your heart are narrowed, and more likely to become blocked, causing heart attacks;
  • Stroke, which is caused by blood not being able to reach your brain;
  • Peripheral artery disease, where blood struggles to reach your arms, hands, legs and feet. In some cases, this can lead to amputations.

Even people who smoke less than five cigarettes per day may show early signs of CVD.

Chronic Lung Disease

Over time, exposure to the chemicals in cigarette smoke can cause permanent damage to your lungs and airways. This can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult for you to breathe. COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Symptoms of COPD include trouble breathing, coughing, excess mucus production and wheezing.


Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to turn food into energy. When you eat, your pancreas (an organ near your stomach) produces insulin. Insulin is a hormone which helps take the energy you get from food and delivers it throughout your body. People with diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin or can’t use insulin well. The nicotine in tobacco products changes your cells so they can’t use insulin as well anymore. As a result, people who smoke are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who don’t smoke. People who smoke with diabetes are more likely to experience serious health problems like heart attacks, kidney disease and eye diseases that can cause blindness.

Vision Loss or Blindness

Smoking can lead to serious eye conditions that result in vision loss or blindness. This can come in the form of macular degeneration, an eye disease which affects your ability to see objects clearly, or cataracts, which cause blurry vision that gets worse over time. People who smoke are two times as likely to experience macular degeneration and two to three times as likely to experience cataracts as people who don’t smoke.

Fortunately, quitting smoking can significantly lower your risk of developing these chronic conditions and improve your overall quality of life. If you’re interested in resources to help you live a tobacco-free life, you can start by checking here.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.