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Benefits and risks of smoking cessation

Nancy A Rigotti, MD
Section Editors
James K Stoller, MD, MS
Mark D Aronson, MD
Deputy Editor
Judith A Melin, MA, MD, FACP


Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of mortality, responsible for nearly six million deaths worldwide and over 400,000 deaths in the United States annually [1,2]. If current trends continue, tobacco will kill more than eight million people worldwide each year by the year 2030. The three major causes of smoking-related mortality are atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) [2].

Smokers who stop smoking reduce their risk of developing and dying from tobacco-related illnesses [3,4]. Screening all patients for tobacco use and providing smokers with behavioral counseling and pharmacotherapy to stop smoking are among the most valuable preventive services that can be offered in health care [5].

This topic will discuss the benefits and risks of smoking cessation. Management of smoking cessation, including the use of behavioral and pharmacologic therapies, is discussed in detail separately. (See "Overview of smoking cessation management in adults" and "Behavioral approaches to smoking cessation" and "Pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation in adults".)


Smoking cessation is associated with substantial health benefits for all smokers [6]. The extent of benefit partly depends on the intensity and duration of prior tobacco smoke exposure. Smokers who stop smoking can be expected to live longer and are less likely to develop tobacco-related diseases, including coronary heart disease, cancer, and pulmonary disease. Smokers also benefit from quitting smoking even after the development of smoking-related diseases, such as coronary heart disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

All-cause mortality — Up to one-half of all smokers can be expected to die from a tobacco-related illness [1]. In one population-based cohort of nearly 50,000 people aged 40 to 70 years in Norway, the years of life lost were 1.4 years in women and 2.7 years in men among those who smoked ≥20 cigarettes daily, compared with those who never smoked [7].

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Dec 07, 2016.
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