Copyright © Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
Tobacco use accounts for the deaths of an average of one person every six seconds.
Tobacco use kills 5.4 million people a year worldwide — an average of one person every six seconds — and accounts for one in 10 adult deaths worldwide. It kills up to half of all users. Most of tobacco’s damage to health does not become evident until years or even decades after the onset of use. So, while tobacco use is rising globally, the epidemic of tobacco–related disease and death has yet to reach its peak.
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About 6 Singaporeans die prematurely from smoking–related diseases each day.
Smoking–related diseases, including cancer, heart disease,
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) — also known as Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COLD), are the nation’s top killers.
The social cost of smoking in 1997 ranged from S$673 to S$839 million. The social cost of smoking in Singapore includes the direct costs (payments for hospitalisation and healthcare due to smoking), morbidity costs (lost production due to smoking related illnesses) and mortality costs (lost production from people who died early due to smoking).
Smoking is the largest cause of preventable death in the world. Don’t let yourself or your family become the next victim.
Is there a safe way to smoke cigarettes?
No. All cigarettes can damage the human body. Any smoking is dangerous. The cigarette is the only legal product whose advertised and intended use — smoking — is known to harm the body and cause cancer.
Some people think that switching from high–tar and high–nicotine cigarettes to those with low tar and nicotine makes smoking safer, but this is not true. When people switch to brands with lower tar and nicotine, they often end up smoking more cigarettes, or more of each cigarette, to get the same nicotine dose as before.
Smokers have been led to believe that “light” cigarettes have lower health risk and are a good option to quitting. A low–tar cigarette can be just as harmful as a high–tar cigarette because a person often takes deeper puffs, puffs more often, or smokes them to a shorter butt length.
Are menthol cigarettes safer than those without menthol?
Menthol only adds to the flavour of the cigarettes. It does not make the cigarettes any less dangerous.
In fact, menthol cigarettes may even be more dangerous. The added menthol produces a cooling sensation in the throat when the smoke is inhaled. It also decreases the cough reflex and covers the dry feeling in the throat that smokers often have. People who smoke menthol cigarettes can inhale deeper and hold the smoke in longer.
Is cigarette smoking really addictive?
Yes. The nicotine in cigarette smoke causes an addiction to smoking. Nicotine is an addictive drug just like heroin and cocaine.
What are the normal reactions after you quit?
Difficulty in concentration or dizziness because your brain needs to get used to having more oxygen
Cough and running nose as your lungs get rid of all the dirt and germs that had accumulated inside while you were smoking
Strong craving for cigarettes while your body gets rid of the nicotine
Tingling sensations in your arms and legs as your blood circulation returns to normal
Not everyone will get these withdrawal symptoms but don't lose heart if you do. They will disappear in one or two weeks and they are actually signs that you are getting better.
Am I at risk if I puff the cigarette without inhaling the smoke?
Many chemicals in the cigarette smoke (including nicotine) can be absorbed through the mouth, nose and skin.
The smoke that you blow out stays in the surrounding air. When you take your next breath, it goes straight into your lungs, without you realising it.
Environmental Tobacco Smoke
What does nicotine do?
In large doses, nicotine is a poison and can kill by stopping a person’s breathing muscles.
Smokers usually become dependent on nicotine and suffer physical and emotional (psychological) withdrawal symptoms when they stop smoking. These symptoms include irritability, nervousness, headaches and trouble sleeping. The true marker for addiction, though, is that people still smoke even though they know smoking is bad for them — affecting their lives, their health and their families and friends in unhealthy ways.
Who is most likely to become addicted?
Anyone who starts smoking is at risk of becoming addicted to nicotine. Studies show that cigarette smoking is most likely to become a habit during the teenage years. The younger a person is when he or she begins to smoke, the more likely he or she is to become addicted to nicotine.
Why do smokers have “smoker’s cough”?
Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that irritate the air passages and lungs. When a smoker inhales these substances, the body tries to protect itself by making mucus and coughing. The early morning smoker’s cough happens for many reasons. Normally, tiny hair–like formations (called cilia) beat outward and sweep harmful material out of the lungs. Cigarette smoke slows the sweeping action, so some of the poisons in the smoke stay in the lungs, and mucus stays in the airways. While a smoker sleeps, some cilia recover and begin working again. After waking up, the smoker coughs because the lungs are trying to clear away the irritants and mucus built up the day before. The cilia will completely stop working after they have been exposed to smoke for a long time. When this happens, the smoker’s lungs are even more exposed and prone to infection and irritation.
The same noxious chemicals that cause the simple smoker’s cough can lead to far more serious conditions such as bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia and lung cancer.
Why do I cough more after I've quit smoking?
Your lungs start to function properly again and are working to clear tar, dead cells and extra mucus accumulated from the cigarettes.
My husband was only 30 years old when he suffered from a stroke. The doctor said that smoking is the main cause of his stroke. How can smoking actually cause stroke?
Smoking causes a build–up of fatty deposits in the blood vessels, resulting in narrowing and blockage of the vessels. If the blood supply in these vessels leading to the brain is blocked, the surrounding brain cells will die, resulting in a stroke.
I've heard that smoking causes a fatty build–up in the blood vessels. But how is this so when fat is not an ingredient in cigarette smoke?
The moment you light a cigarette, thousands of poisonous chemicals in the cigarette smoke enter your body and are absorbed into the bloodstream. Some of these chemicals make your blood vessel walls sticky, damaging them, and causing them to collect the tiny fatty deposits that float in the bloodstream. The more you smoke, the more the fatty deposits build up.
How does smoking cause a heart attack? Is it similar to how smoking causes stroke?
Yes. Similar adverse effects take place when the blood vessels leading to our heart are blocked by fatty deposits. This cuts off the blood supply to our heart muscles, killing the tissue. As a result, a heart attack occurs.
How many cigarettes do I need to smoke to get lung cancer?
Lung cancer can begin from cell damage caused by smoking just ONE cigarette.
Research has found that one of the cancer–causing substances in cigarette smoke (benzopyrene) directly attacks and damages the p53 gene which blocks cancer and prevents cancer cells from growing. When cancer threatens a lung cell with a damaged p53 gene, a deadly tumour starts to grow.
Can quitting really help a lifelong smoker?
Yes. It is never too late to quit smoking. The sooner you quit, the more you can reduce your chances of getting cancer and other diseases. Within minutes of smoking the last cigarette, your body begins to restore itself.
Suppose I smoke for a while and then quit?
Smoking begins to cause damage right away and is highly addictive. Some studies have found nicotine to be as addictive as heroin or cocaine.
Do filters reduce the dangers of cigarette smoking?
Cigarette filters may trap part of the tar and nicotine, but they do not remove any poisons from the cigarette smoke.
For more information, please call QuitLine at 1800 438 2000 or visit
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This article was last reviewed on
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