Muhlenberg County Health Department Tobacco Use Education & Prevention

Health Effects of Smoking

According to the American Lung Association, smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death worldwide.  Smoking-related diseases claim more than 480,000 lives in the U.S. each year.  Smoking costs the U.S. at least $289 billion each year, including at least $151 billion in lost productivity and $130 billion in direct healthcare expenditures.

Key Facts about Smoking

  • Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer.  Smoking is directly responsible for approximately 80 percent of deaths caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  • Among adults who have ever smoked daily, 78% has smoked their first cigarette by the time they were 18 years of age, and 94%   had by the age of 21.
  • Among current smokers, 73% of their diagnosed smoking-related conditions are chronic lung diseases.  Even among smokers who  have quit, chronic lung disease still accounts for 50% of smoking-related conditions.
  • Smoking harms nearly every organ in the body, and is a main cause of lung cancer and COPD.  It also is a cause of coronary hear disease, stroke and a host of other cancers and diseases. 10 Health Effects Caused by Smoking You Didn’t Know About | State of Tobacco Control | American Lung Association 

Smoking Rates among Adults & Youth

  • In 2017, an estimated 34.3 million, or 14% of adults 18 years of ages and older were current cigarette smokers.
  • Men tend to smoke more than women. In 2017, 15.8% of men currently smoked daily compared to12% of women.
  • Prevalence of current cigarette smoking in 2017 was highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives (24.6%), non-Hispanic whites (15.3%) and non-Hispanic blacks (15.1%), and lowest was among Hispanics (9.9%) and Asian-Americans (7.0%).
  • In 2017, 7.6% of high school students and 2.1% of middle school students were current cigarette users.

Key Facts about Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard causing more than 41,000 deaths per year.  I can cause or make worse a wide range of damaging health effects in children and adults, including lung cancer, respiratory infections and asthma.
  • Secondhand smoke causes approximately 7,330 deaths from lung cancer and 33,950 deaths from heart disease a year.
  • Between 1964 and 2014, 2.5 million people died from exposure to secondhand smoke according to the 2014 report from the U.S. Surgeon General. The report also concluded that secondhand smoke is a definitive cause of stroke.
  • There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke and even short-term exposure potentially can increase the risk of heart attacks.
  • Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of chemicals know to be toxic or carcinogenic, including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide.
  • Secondhand smoke can cause heart attacks; even relatively brief exposure can trigger a heart attack, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine.

Secondhand Smoke and Children

  • Secondhand smoke is especially harmful to young children.  Secondhand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age, resulting in between 7,500 and 5,000 hospitalizations each year.  It also causes 430 sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths in the U.S. annually.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure may cause a buildup of fluid in the middle ear, resulting in 790,000 doctor’s office visits per year, as well as more than 202,000 asthma flare-ups among children each year.
  • More than 23 million or about 35% of children int he U.S. have been exposed to secondhand smoke.

The American Lung Association has more information available on laws protecting the public from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Smokeless Tobacco

Smokeless tobacco includes products such as chewing (spit) tobacco, moist snuf, snus (a “spitless,” moist powder tobacco, often in a pouch), and other tobacco-containing products that are not smoked.  Some smokeless tobacco products might expose people to lower levels of harmful chemicals than tobacco smoke, but that doesn’t mean these products are a safe alternative to smoking. 

The amount of nicotine in a can of smokeless tobacco is roughly 144 milligrams, which is equal to about 80 cigarettes. In other words, one can of snuff or dip equals about four packs of cigarettes.

Smokeless tobacco causes a wide-variety of short-term health effects including:

• High blood pressure
• Sores on cheek, gums, and tongue
• Cavities/stained teeth
• Dizziness/nausea
• Gingivitis
• Ruined sense of taste and smell

Long term effects of smokeless tobacco use are:

  • Leukoplakia (mouth disease characterized by white patches and oral lesions on cheek, gum, and/or tongue)
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • Various cancers (mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, stomach, and pancreatic)
  • Tooth and bone loss
  • Additional smokeless tobacco health facts:
  • Adolescents who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to become cigarette smokers.
  • Smokeless tobacco users are 4-6 times more likely to develop oral cancer compared to non-users and these cancers can form within 5 years of regular use.
  • Smokeless tobacco use has been shown to be a gateway drug not only leading to cigarette smoking, but the use of other drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and inhalants.
  • A thirty-minute chew gives you the same amount of nicotine as three cigarettes and a two can/week snuff dipper delivers the same nicotine as a 1 1/2 pack-a-day cigarette habit.

For more information please visit:

Electronic Cigarettes

E-cigarettes (e-cigs) and vape pens, use a battery to heat up a special liquid into an aerosol that users inhale.  The “e-juice” that fills the cartridge usually contains inhale and exhale a mix of gases and tiny particles carrying toxins into their lungs and into the air around them, forcing others to breathe in these tiny aerosols.  In Kentucky, there are restrictions on sales to underage persons.  It prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21. Restrictions on Sales to Underage Persons (  

Because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not begun its review of any e-cigarette or its ingredients, nor has FDA issued any standards on the products, e-cigarette composition and effects vary.  What researchers do know is that these toxic chemicals and metals have all been found in  e-cigarettes:

  • Propylene glycol – lung and eye irritants; common additive to food; also used to make things like anti-freeze, pain solvent, and artificial smoke in fog machines
  • Carcinogens – chemicals known to cause cancer, including acetaldehyde and formaldehyde
  • Nicotine – a highly addictive substance that negatively affects adolescent brain development
  • Acrolein – a herbicide primarily used to kill weeks, can cause irreversible lung damage
  • Diacetyl – a chemical linked to a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans aka “popcorn lung
  • Diethylene glycol – a toxic chemical used in antifreeze that is linked to lung disease
  • High levels of nicotine can be absorbed through spills on the skin or by children swallowing the liquid
  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, lead
  • Cadmium – a toxic metal found in traditional cigarettes that causes breathing problems and disease
  • Benzene – a volatile organic compound (VOC) found in car exhaust
  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs 

E-cigs appeal to our youth

Due to effective targeted marketing, non-smoking teens are drawn to e-cigarettes because of appealing, candy-like, sweet, menthol, mint, or fruit flavors.  Some advertisement strategies include a celebrity spokesperson and often sponsor sporting events and music festivals. Many youth believe that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Most youth are not aware of the ingredients in their e-cigarette.  

Resources for parents, schools, teens regarding E-cigarettes, Vapes, and JUULs are as follows:

E-Cigarettes & Vaping: What Parents Should Know (

Want to stop smoking?

Learn about the American Lung Association’s programs to help you or a loved one quit smoking.

Call 1 800 QUIT NOW for help to stop smoking.