Attention A T users. To access the menus on this page please perform the following steps. 1. Please switch auto forms mode to off. 2. Hit enter to expand a main menu option (Health, Benefits, etc). 3. To enter and activate the submenu links, hit the down arrow. You will now be able to tab or arrow up or down through the submenu options to access/activate the submenu links.

Public Health


Quick Links

Veterans Crisis Line Badge
My healthevet badge
EBenefits Badge

Health Effects of Tobacco

An image of two elderly brothers outdoors

Tobacco smoke contains harmful chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for many health problems in Veterans and those who breathe in secondhand smoke.

Learn more about harmful ingredients in tobacco from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Nicotine is the addictive chemical in tobacco. While nicotine itself does not cause cancer, the body can become addicted to it, causing physical cravings.

Increased risk of cancer

Tobacco use increases your risk of many types of cancer. While many people associate tobacco use with lung cancer, this is just one type of cancer it causes. Tobacco use and exposure to cigarette smoke can also result in:

  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Cancers in the throat region, mouth, voice box, and esophagus
  • Kidney cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Cancers of the blood, like acute myeloid leukemia
  • Bladder cancer

Women who smoke have almost 18 times the risk of dying of lung cancer compared to women who don't smoke. Learn more about women and smoking.

Tobacco worsens other health conditions

  • Smoking can make mental health conditions worse. Learn how smoking affects your mental health.
  • Quitting tobacco may actually make it easier to stop using drugs and alcohol. Learn about substance use and tobacco.
  • If you have HIV and use tobacco, tobacco can make your HIV worse. Learn how smoking affects your HIV.
  • Tobacco use can cause problems with your teeth, mouth, and gums. Learn how tobacco use affects your oral health (1.25MB, PDF).

Benefits of quitting

The benefits of quitting are immediate to you and those around you. Find out how your life will be better when you quit tobacco.

Michael, a Veteran with COPD, tells why he quit smoking after 43 years.


Watch more Tips From Former Smokers, a campaign by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).