Foundation for Smoke Free America

Keep Kids
from Smoking


Your Lungs!

Joe Camel - in Critical Condition!

No Smoking!

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Smoking Home Page

The typical cigarette smoker loses seven minutes of life for every cigarette smoked - one year for every ten years they smoked.  Race, economic status, or culture don't matter - the statistics are the same.  For some smokers, decades may pass before tobacco robs them of their every breath, while for some it is much sooner.

Widespread use of tobacco dates back to the days of Christopher Columbus who returned to Europe with ships laden with tobacco.  After about fifty years, physicians promoted tobacco as a cure for illnesses such as cancer (how ironic!), gout, halitosis, rheumatism and cataracts.  English colonies flourished in the Americas and tobacco became the economic backbone of the settlers.  The Chesapeake Bay region imported more than 100,000 slaves to work in the tobacco fields, and from 1618 to 1626 Virginia tobacco farmers' exports increased by 600 percent.

Tobacco sales soared again during the 20th century as its use was promoted by well-known personalities.  Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne were only a few of the household icons who encouraged millions to light up by example.  About this time, the health risks associated with tobacco smoke became more and more obvious.  In 1975, the Medical Research Council in Britain identified tobacco as the principle cause of increased rates of lung cancer.

Today, more than 430,000 people in the United States die each year from illnesses related to tobacco smoking making it more deadly than AIDS, car accidents, homicides, suicides, and drug overdoses combined.  Smoking is now recognized as the cause for nearly 90 percent of all lung cancers.  Women who smoke during pregnancy have an increased risk of miscarriage, giving birth to babies with low birth weight and putting their infants at risk for serious health problems.  Tobacco is also associated with male sexual impotence (because of its constrictive effect on blood vessels), cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pancreas, cervix, kidney, and bladder.  The rate of heart attacks among smokers in their thirties and forties is five times greater than their non-smoking peers.  Low tar of mentholated cigarette smokers are at even greater risk as they tend to inhale more deeply to achieve their nicotine "kick."

Scientific studies have also linked passive smoking (second-hand smoke) to chronic respiratory diseases in non-smokers, such as asthma and bronchitis.  Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke risk a 23 percent increase in heart disease and a 20 percent increase in lung cancer.  Each year approximately 40,000 non-smokers die as a result of illnesses caused by second-hand smoke.

Smokeless tobacco is not any safer.  More than 11 million people chew tobacco, yet the risk of death from diseases such as mouth cancer is 50 percent higher than in non-smokers.  Studies show that those using chewing tobacco eight to ten times a day may be equivalent to smoking 30-40 cigarettes a day.

With all that is known about tobacco, why do 50 million people in America continue to use tobacco?  Why do another 3,000 adolescents pick up the habit each day?  Tobacco industry documents obtained during litigation reveal some disturbing answers.


Nicotine can be absorbed through the skin, lungs, and mucous membranes lining the gums.  Once it is in the blood, nicotine travels to the brain where it increases the release of chemicals such as adrenaline, acetylcholine, dopamine, and endorphins.  For the overwhelming majority of smokers, these chemicals create a psychological and physiological dependency on the drug.  Tobacco companies have clearly known about the addictive nature of nicotine for many years.  In 1963, Brown and Williamson Company  (manufacturer of Kools, Viceroy, Pall Mall, Silva Thins) documents acknowledged: "Nicotine is addictive.  We are, then, in the business of selling nicotine - an addictive drug effective in the release of stress mechanisms."

In later documents, the same company noted, "Monkeys can be trained to inject themselves with nicotine for its own sake, just as they will inject other dependence-producing drugs, e.g., opiates, caffeine, amphetamine, cocaine ... The absorption of nicotine through the lungs is as quick as the junkie's 'fix'."

Phillip Morris (manufacturers of Marlboro, Virginia Slims, Parliament, Lark) noted in 1969, "We have, then, as our first premise, that the primary motivation for smoking is to obtain the pharmacological effect of nicotine." 

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (makers of Camel, Salem, Doral, Winston) stated, "If we ... move toward reduction or elimination of nicotine in our products, then we shall eventually liquidate our business.  If we intend to remain in business and our business is the manufacture and sale of dosage forms of nicotine, then at some point we must make a stand."

Nicotine's addictive properties explain the "cold turkey" syndrome when a person suddenly stops smoking.  Their body reacts as it would to withdrawal from any addictive drug, with irritability, anxiety, depression, and severe craving for the drug.  Symptoms subside over a month, but even a day without nicotine can be a grueling experience.  Similar to alcohol, a smoker will often continue to crave cigarettes for the rest of his life and smoking one cigarette can start the habit all over again.

Seducing Youth to Smoke

Tobacco companies continue to recruit new smokers to replace those who die - especially young adolescents (14-17 years old).  More than half of all smokers start to smoke before their fourteenth birthday, and most of them don't stop until they are dead.  Documents from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco reveal, "If our company is to survive and prosper over the long term, we must get our share of the youth market."

In 1977, Philip Morris attempted to obtain access to school records to identify hyperactive children, considering them a potential market for self-medication with nicotine.  Fortunately, laws restricted tobacco's access to those school records. In 1978, Lorillard (makers of Kent, Maverick, Old Gold) executives acknowledged that high school students comprised the "base" of their business.  In 1981, Philip Morris researcher Myron E. Johnston wrote, "Today's teenager is tomorrow's potential regular customer, and the overwhelming majority of smokers first begin to smoke while in their teens."

The "Joe Camel" campaign hit the streets with billboards and free paraphernalia such as baseball caps, beach towels and T-shirts in 1987 when cigarette sales were plummeting in America due to anti-smoking initiatives.  Almost immediately, cigarette sales turned around - especially among the mid-teen population.  One study reveals that 91 percent of six-year-olds correctly identified Joe Camel with cigarettes.  

Information on youth smoking prevention can be found at the following sites,

bulletCDC's TIPS for youth program
bulletNational Parent Information Network
bulletNational PTA
bulletPhilip Morris USA Youth Smoking Prevention
bulletSmoke Free Kids

Successfully Kicking the Habit

A 2001 Harris Poll indicated that 80 percent of smokers believe tobacco use increases their risk of lung cancer and heart disease.  Most respondents indicated that they had tried to quit an average of eight times, but found nicotine addiction a powerful enemy.  More than 38 million smokers have been successful, however.  Each year, more than 1 million join the rank of former nicotine addicts and the take-home message is that tobacco is a strong enemy - but not an invincible one.  Those who are able to stop smoking begin almost immediately to reap health benefits - as well as significant financial benefits.  The average pack-a-day smoker spends about $100 each month on their habit, or about $1,200 a year.

Health Benefits of Sopping Smoking

bulletWithin 8 hours of quitting: Blood carbon monoxide levels drop to normal and blood oxygen levels increase.
bulletWithin 1 to 9 months of quitting: Symptoms associated with chronic use decrease such as coughing, nasal congestion, shortness of breath and fatigue.  The lung's cilia function begin to return to normal, which increases the body's ability to handle mucus, clean the respiratory tract and reduce upper respiratory infections.
bulletWithin 1 year of quitting: The risk of heart disease decreases to half that of a tobacco user.
bulletWithin 5 years of quitting: Lung cancer death rate and the risk of cancer of the mouth for a pack/day smoker each decrease nearly 50 percent.
bulletWithin 10 years of quitting: Lung cancer death rate is reduced to the average risk of a non-smoker.  The risk of stroke is lowered, possibly to that of a non-smoker.  The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas are all significantly reduced.
bulletWithin 15 years of quitting: The risk of heart disease is that of a non-smoker.

Find Help to Stop Smoking on the Internet

bulletAmerican Cancer Society
bulletThe American Lung Association
bulletNational Cancer Institute
bullet Center for Disease Control
bullet Office of the Surgeon General
bulletNicotine Anonymous World Services
bulletAmerican Academy of Addiction Psychiatry
bulletAgency for Healthcare Research and Quality Publications Clearinghouse
bulletAmerican Council on Science and Health
bulletTobacco Archive
bulletSmoke Free Kids
bulletQuit Net
bulletAction on Smoking and Health

Up In Smoke

Sometimes, people will be motivated to stop smoking from financial reasons rather than health concerns.  A study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta put the nation's total cost of smoking at $3,391 a year for every smoker, or $157.7 billion.  Americans buy about 22 billion packs of cigarettes a year.  The nation's smoking-related medical costs are $3.45 per pack, and the job productivity lost due to premature death and illness from smoking is estimated to cost society $3.73 per pack.

On the individual level, if a person smokes one pack of cigarettes per day at $3.50 each, they will spend nearly $1,200 a year - money that literally goes up in smoke!

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The typical smoker loses seven minutes of life for every cigarette, or one year for every ten years they smoked.
About 430,000 people in the U.S. die each year from tobacco-related illnesses.
More than half of all smokers started smoking before their fourteenth birthday and most don't stop until they are dead.
More than 38 million Americans have been successful in stopping smoking.