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Smoking, heart disease and stroke

Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke have many negative health effects that increase your risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Smoking contributes to the buildup of plaque in your arteries, increases the risk of blood clots, reduces the oxygen in your blood, increases your blood pressure and makes your heart work harder.

Smokeless tobacco (chewing tobacco or snuff) is also harmful and can increase the risk of having a fatal heart attack, fatal stroke and certain cancers. Do not use smokeless tobacco products. They are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.

Being smoke-free has enormous benefits for your health and the health of the people around you. Once you become smoke-free and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke, you will immediately reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. The sooner you become smoke-free, the sooner your body can start to recover and it doesn't take long to see the effects.

  • Within one year of quitting, your added risk of coronary heart disease is cut in half than that of a smoker.
  • Within 5 years, your risk of having a stroke will be nearly that of a non-smoker. 
  • Within 10 years, the risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half.
  • Within 15 years, your risk of coronary heart disease will be similar to that of a non-smoker.

Becoming smoke-free

If you've been thinking about quitting, then you're one step closer to becoming smoke-free. We'll help you get started with some tips, quizzes and tools, and we'll point you to the support resources you'll need to help you become smoke-free for life.

Tips for becoming smoke-free

  • Identify your smoking triggers. Figure out when you tend to smoke. Is it when you have a coffee or go out for a drink with friends, or when you're stressed? Identifying your triggers is one of the most important steps to becoming smoke-free.
  • Break the connection. Once you can identify your triggers, you'll be better able to break the connection between smoking and your routines. So, when you feel the need to smoke, stop and ask yourself if you really need this cigarette, or if you can wait and do something else. Try to delay smoking by keeping your hands and mouth busy – drink water, brush your teeth, snack on carrot or celery sticks, or take a walk.
  • Set a quit date. If you are ready to quit, set a date now, write it down and tell a friend or family member you've decided to become smoke-free.
  • Make your home and car smoke-free zones. The more difficult you make it for yourself and others to smoke, the less you will. Cut down on your opportunities to smoke and you'll be able to gradually reduce the cigarettes you smoke each day, which will help reduce your dependence.
  • Ask for help. Becoming smoke-free can be difficult, so don't be afraid to ask for help and support from family, friends and your healthcare provider. 

For more information on how to quit smoking, call Canadian Cancer Society’s Smokers' Helpline at 1-877-513-5333 or visit the Smokers’ Helpline Online program.

You can also call Health Canada’s 1-800 Quit Lines or visit Health Canada's website.

Last reviewed: August 2013
Last modified: July 2013