How Does Using Tobacco Cause Death from Cancer? Count the ways …

Tobacco use is responsible for 30% of all deaths from cancer, 70% of all male deaths from cancer.

“One of the most effective ways to bring the Palmetto State’s cancer rate under control is to reduce our tobacco use rates. The best ways to do that are to prevent youths from starting, protect citizens from secondhand smoke with smoke-free and tobacco-free policies, and help smokers quit,” says S.C. Tobacco-Free Collaborative Executive Director Louis Eubank.

Why should you go tobacco-free personally, professionally and socially?

Tobacco-use causes cancer.

Tobacco use is responsible for 30% of all deaths from cancer, the leading cause of death in our state. Lung cancer is the top cause of cancer death in South Carolina and the United States. Almost 90% of deaths from lung cancer are caused by smoking.

But, lung cancer is only one of many cancers caused by using tobacco.

Smoking, chewing tobacco, and breathing secondhand smoke increase one’s risk for cancers of the:












kidneys and ureters,





bone marrow,

and, blood.

Secondhand Smoke Exposure Causes Cancer

It’s not just about smoking or chewing tobacco. Being exposed to someone else’s smoke can also cause cancer. Secondhand smoke contains 69 known carcinogens such as arsenic, benzene, and polonium 210, a radioactive substance. Further, it is not breathed in directly, rather than through a filter.

Among others, chronic secondhand smoke exposure has been linked to a higher risk of lung cancer, breast cancer, sinus cavity cancer and nasopharyngeal cancer in adults, cancer of the cervix in women, and leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors in children.

Secondhand smoke exposure is also known to endanger pets causing mouth cancer in cats and lung and nose cancer in dogs.

Thirdhand smoke is the name given to the mix of cancer causing chemicals that build up on surfaces around a smoker. Researchers are now recognizing that smoke from a cigarette mixes with other air pollutants and the chemicals in fabrics and coating, such as paint, to form a toxic brew that can last, and be a health threat, for years.

In fact, the Surgeon General has said that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke for anyone. Reducing South Carolina’s cancer rate means reducing citizens’ rate of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Tobacco-use makes cancer more deadly.

Using tobacco also makes cancer treatment less successful and increases the likelihood of complications.

Using tobacco slows wound healing, increases infection rates, and interfears with the absorption and metabolism of both nutrients and drugs.

While tobacco use is known to negatively affect the immune system and increase the risk of infection, a recent study showed that tobacco-use increases the risk of contracting the drug-resistant ‘superbug’ MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and makes it more aggressive.

Tobacco-use also raises the risk that one will develop an independent secondary cancer and/or will suffer a recurrence of their primary cancer.

Tobacco-use makes cancer more expensive.

Infographic from The American Cancer Society

WebMD ranks cancer treatment as third highest medical expense in the Top 11 Medical Expenses.

Tobacco use increases the need for repeated and more cancer treatment, the likelihood of medical complications, and the risk of developing additional cancers, all of which add to the cost of treating cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates that while the average price of a pack of cigarettes is $6.36 (nationally), the average per-pack cost of tobacco-related illness is $35.00.

Much of that cost is passed along to the taxpayer in the form of higher Medicaid and Medicare costs.

The dearest cost of cancer diagnosis is the lost years of life; years spent struggling in treatment or lost to premature death that could have been spent with children, friends, loved ones, working on a passion, enjoying travel, hobbies. These lost years are significant emotional, social and financial fallout.

In fact, while an early death from cancer represents an incalculable cost, the loss in quality of life of living with cancer is also an important consideration.

Quitting before or after a cancer diagnosis

Up to one-third of all cancer patients who smoke don’t quit after a cancer diagnosis. Although research shows that patients who receive quit advice from their doctors are more likely to quit, many never receive this advice.

Winning the fight against cancer depends on physicians and medical staff being aware of their patients’ tobacco-use status and helping them seek quit assistance through South Carolina’s Physician Referral Program.

Every smoker should be aware of the quit assistance available with or without doctor’s orders at 1–800-QUITNOW.

Christie James


Surgeon General: Smoking and Cancer Factsheet

American Cancer Society Tobacco-Related Cancers Fact Sheet

Smoking in Cancer Care (PDQ®): Overview & Table of Contents National Cancer Institute / National Institutes of Health

Smoking in Cancer Care (PDQ®): Poorer Treatment Response in Cancer Patients National Cancer Institute / National Institutes of Health

CDC Secondhand Smoke Factsheet

Cancer Among Adults from Exposure to Secondhand Smoke The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.