Risks of smoking

Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 toxic substances, including more than 50 carcinogens. It is therefore no surprise that smoking is the cause of the vast majority of COPD cases (see below), a third of cancers, and a large portion of cardiovascular diseases. It is also the first cause of avoidable death.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of death in the country. The death rate from COPD is highest in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. In Quebec, one person dies from COPD every hour. In at least 85% of cases, COPD is caused by smoking.

COPD is a chronic disease that obstructs your lungs, making it difficult to breathe. COPD includes lung diseases, the two main ones being chronic bronchitis and emphysema. There is no cure for these diseases; in fact, they get worse over time. People with COPD can be "short of breath" for years and have a very diminished quality of life.

Quitting smoking is the best way to prevent COPD and slow its progression.

For more information, contact the Quebec Lung Association at 1 888 768-6669 or go to poumonquebec.ca/en/maladies/copd.

Discover Living Well with COPD, a self-management program developed to help people with COPD and their family take charge of their disease in collaboration with their healthcare team.


Cancer is the leading cause of death in Quebec. It has been estimated that smoking is responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths and that it is directly linked to more than 85% of all cases of lung cancer in Canada. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Canada.

In addition to lung cancer, cigarettes can also be at the origin of the following cancers:

  • cancer of the larynx
  • cancer of the mouth
  • cancer of the pharynx and of the esophagus
  • cancer of the bladder, the stomach, the pancreas, the kidneys
  • cancer of the cervix, the breast

The longer a person smokes and the more cigarettes that person smokes a day, the higher their risk of developing cancer. The good news is that 10 years after quitting, a smoker's risk of dying from lung cancer is reduced by 50%.

For more information, contact the Canadian Cancer Society at 1 888 939-3333 or go to cancer.ca.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD)

Heart disease (or cardiovascular disease, also called CVD) is disease of the heart and blood vessels. CVD is the second leading cause of death in Quebec. A person who smokes is two or three times as likely to have heart disease, such as a heart attack or a stroke that leads to paralysis. The risk is even greater if the person also has hypertension or high cholesterol.

A smoker's risk of developing CVD starts decreasing the minute they stop smoking. One year after quitting, it will have dropped by half. In general, it takes 15 years for the risk of heart disease to be similar to that of a non‑smoker.

For more information, contact the Heart and Stroke Foundation at 1 800 567-8563 or go to www.heartandstroke.ca.

Mouth and teeth issues

Smoking causes more mouth problems than just discoloured teeth and bad breath. In fact, smoking tobacco is linked to many oral and dental issues: cancer (of the tongue, mouth, and throat), gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis), loose teeth, and dry mouth which causes tooth decay—not to mention more complications during oral surgery and a slower recovery.

Did you know that on average smokers* are two to three times more likely than non-smokers to lose teeth even before they turn 50?

If you want a healthy mouth and healthy teeth, quitting smoking is the way to go.

*15 or more cigarettes a day