Smoking Facts

Smoking Facts


  • Tobacco was introduced to Europe from the New World at the end of the fifteenth century.  Smoking spread rapidly and was long regarded as having medicinal value. It was not until the 20th century, however, that smoking became a mass habit and not until the 1950’s that the dangers of smoking were firmly established.
  • About 12 million adults in Great Britain smoke cigarettes – 26% of men and 23% of women. In 1974, 51% of men and 41% of women smoked cigarettes – nearly half the adult population of Britain. Now one-quarter smoke but the decline in recent years has been heavily concentrated in older age groups: i.e., almost as many young people are taking up smoking but more established smokers are quitting.
  • In England about one fifth of Britain’s 15 year-olds – 16% of boys and 25% of girls – are regular smokers – despite the fact that it is illegal to sell cigarettes to children aged under16.
  • Tobacco is the only legally available consumer product which kills people when it is used entirely as intended.
  • Every year, around 114,000 smokers in the UK die as a result of their habit.
  • About half of all regular cigarette smokers will eventually be killed by their habit.
  • Smoking causes about thirty per cent of all cancer deaths (including around 84% of lung cancer deaths), 17% of all heart disease deaths and at least 80% of deaths from bronchitis and emphysema.
  • Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemical compounds, which are present either as gases or as tiny particles. These include:
  1. Nicotine.

    This is what is addictive. It stimulates the central nervous system, increasing the heartbeat rate and blood pressure. In large quantities nicotine is extremely poisonous.

  2. Tar.

    Brown and treacly in appearance, tar consists of tiny particles and is formed when tobacco smoke condenses. Tar is deposited in the lungs and respiratory system and gradually absorbed. It is a mixture of many different chemicals, including:  formaldehyde, arsenic, cyanide, benzo[a]pyrene, benzene, toluene, acrolein.

  3. Carbon Monoxide.

    This binds to haemoglobin in the bloodstream more easily than oxygen does, thus making the blood carry less oxygen round the body.