How Tobacco Smoke Causes Lung Disease

On December 9, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin released a landmark report that connects the dots, showing how tobacco smoke causes lung disease. The report, “How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking Attributable Disease” focuses attention on tobacco use and its devastating effects, including the major finding that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

This 30th Surgeon General’s Report contains many significant finding, including that the length of time a person smokes has a direct connection to how lung disease develops. This is important news for ‘casual’ or ‘social’ smokers to understand that even though they may be smoking fewer cigarettes, the longer they smoke, the more they are at risk for disease. The only way to avoid the health risks is to completely quit tobacco use.

The report also confirms that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and that smoke causes damage immediately to the cardiovascular system. Even low levels of tobacco exposure lead to disease and death, including heart attack, stroke, a weakened immune system and asthma attacks.

The American Lung Association has tools and information available to help smokers quit. Click here to learn more.

Tobacco kills 443,000 Americans each year – including 50,000 Americans from secondhand smoke – making it the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. At the center of this death and destruction is the tobacco industry. The report details how cigarettes are designed for addiction, and how the tobacco industry has made cigarettes more addictive over the years. Their efforts have made it easier for kids to get addicted and harder for smokers to quit.

How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease is also a call for strong, decisive action by elected officials in Washington and across the country to implement policies proven to reduce tobacco use. The federal government made major advances in enacting and implementing important policy measures in 2010 to protect citizens from tobacco-caused illnesses. But most state governments, lagged far behind.

You can join our fight, and tell your elected officials the time to stop tobacco’s toll on American families is now. Learn more here.

The American Lung Association will be releasing its annual State of Tobacco Control report on January 20, which grades the strength of federal and state laws protecting Americans from tobacco-caused disease. The report and state grades will be available at

The Lung Association has been successfully helping smokers quit for more than 30 years with our Freedom From Smoking program. For assistance with quitting smoking or for additional questions about lung health, please call the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 1-800-548-8252.


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