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Interesting Smoking Facts

Every single minute that you are a nonsmoker, you are doing something wonderful for your health. In fact, the American Cancer Society has calculated some of the immediate and long-term benefits that nonsmokers can enjoy. As soon as you put out your last cigarette, your body will begin a series of positive physiological changes. 1

  • Within 20 minutes: Your blood pressure, body temperature and pulse rate will drop to normal.
  • Within 8 hours: Smoker’s breath disappears, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops and the oxygen level rises to normal.
  • Within 24 hours: Your chance of a heart attack decreases.
  • Within 48 hours: Your nerve endings start to regroup. Your ability to taste and smell improves.
  • Within 3 days: Breathing is easier for you.
  • Within 2 to 3 months: Your circulation improves. Walking becomes easier. Your lung capacity increases up to 30 percent.
  • Within 1 to 9 months: Sinus congestion and shortness of breath decrease. Cilia that sweep debris from your lungs grow back, increasing your lungs’ ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce infection. Your energy increases.
  • Within 1 year: Your excess risk of coronary disease is half that of a person who smokes.
  • Within 2 years: Your heart attack risk drops to near normal.
  • Within 5 years: Lung cancer death rate for the average former pack-a-day smoker decreases by almost half. Your risk of having a stroke reduces. Your risk of developing mouth, throat, and esophageal cancer is half that of a smoker.
  • Within 10 years: Lung cancer death rate is similar to that of a person who does not smoke. The precancerous cells are replaced.
  • Within 15 years: Your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a person who has never smoked.

Chemical Substances Found in Cigarettes 2

Nicotine Constricts blood vessels, cutting down the flow of blood and oxygen, making the heart beat faster. Extremely poisonous.
Pyridine Related to nicotine. Produced by the burning of the cigarette. Some effects on heart action. Used as a dog repellent.
Tar Tar is particulate matter made up of dozens of compounds. Some are toxic (poisonous), some are completely harmless, and some are cancer-causing agents (carcinogens). Tar cools the inside of lungs, forming a sticky mass and damaging delicate lung tissue.
Carbon Monoxide Drives oxygen from the red blood cells. It stays in the blood hemoglobin for up top six hours after exposure to cigarette smoke has stopped. Affects non-smokers.
Cadmium A metal that accumulates in the lungs and stays there. It has an adverse effect on the protective immune devices of the body.
Nitrogen Dioxide Produced by reaction of temperature of burning cigarettes and surrounding nitrogen in the air. Dissolves in water in lung tissue forming Nitrous Acid, which a body can handle fairly well. Also reacts with amines in the body, forming Nitrosamine, which is a carcinogen. EPA standards indicate 5 parts per million as safe. Cigarettes are responsible for producing 250 parts per million.
Ammonia A local irritant.
Hydrogen Sulfide A low level. Extremely toxic.
Hydrogen Cyanide Same gas as used in the gas chamber. EPA standards indicate 10 parts per million as safe. Cigarette smoke produces an average of 1600 parts per million.
Arsenic A metallic substance, poisonous to all life – plants and animals. Human body can build a tolerance to arsenic. Not terribly important as a toxin in cigarettes.
Phenol Works directly on cell protoplasm. Solidifies, and this kills, the protoplasm by changing the nature of the protein and making it insoluble. Similar to what happens when an egg is cooked.
Benzene A poison that interferes with cellular metabolism. Prohibited by law in paint thinners.
Formaldehyde A protoplasm poison similar to phenol.

Formed by the burning of glycerol, which is used to keep the cigarette moist. Responsible for the sharp, irritating part of tobacco. Produces a chemical burning upon inhaling.

1. Surgeon General’s Report 1990.
2. Mahony, D. & Moschella, B. “Out from Under: treating Your Own Addictions,” Appendix 13, 2003.

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