Health Impact of Tobacco Use

Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States, yet more deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.

Tobacco use is a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among African Americans—heart disease, cancer and stroke. Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death among African Americans. The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40% higher for cigarette smokers than nonsmokers.

Tobacco use in any form—even occasional smoking—causes serious diseases and health problems, including:

  • Several forms of cancer, including cancers of the lung, bladder, kidney, pancreas, mouth, and throat

  • Heart disease and stroke

  • Lung diseases, including emphysema, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • Pregnancy complications, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and birth defects

  • Gum disease

  • Vision problems


Secondhand smoke from cigarettes and cigars also causes heart disease and lung cancer in adults and a number of health problems in infants and children, including:

  • Asthma

  • Respiratory infections

  • Ear infections

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)


Smokeless tobacco causes a number of serious oral health problems, including cancer of the mouth and gums, periodontal disease, and tooth loss.

Tobacco Use