The Heartbreaking Truth About Tobacco

Truth About Tobacco

The dangers of smoking and tobacco use have long been recognized as leading causes of preventable disease and death worldwide. While the detrimental effects on lung health are well-known, the impact on cardiovascular health is equally concerning.

To understand the connection between tobacco and cardiovascular disease, it’s essential to grasp how tobacco affects the cardiovascular system. Nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco, causes the heart to work harder by constricting blood vessels and increasing heart rate. This causes added strain on the heart, raising blood pressure and reducing the flow of oxygen to vital organs, including the heart itself. Over time, this chronic stress on the cardiovascular system can cause a host of serious conditions, from coronary artery disease to stroke. Here are a few common health concerns associated with heart disease and tobacco, as listed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

  • Coronary Heart Disease occurs when arteries are constricted or congested by plaque or clots and occurs when chemicals from cigarette smoke cause the blood to thicken. When untreated, blocked arteries can quickly lead to a heart attack, stroke or even death.
  • Heart Attacks occur when a clot forms in one of the narrow vessels near the heart. As the heart becomes deprived of oxygen, it can suddenly stop beating and lead to death.
  • A Stroke is a loss of brain function when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Though most commonly associated with only the brain, cardiovascular disease is a major cause of stroke, and a common health concern for long-term tobacco users.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) occurs when the blood vessels become narrow and reduce blood flow to the arms, legs, hands and feet, depriving limbs of oxygen. In extreme cases, PAD can result in amputation. Smoking is one of the leading causes of peripheral arterial disease.
  • Atherosclerosis is when arteries narrow due to a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances along the arterial wall. Smoking causes plaque to rapidly form in blood vessels, increasing the overall risk of atherosclerosis.
  • An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm is a bulge or weakened area in the aorta within the abdomen. The abdominal aorta is the main artery that transports oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. Smoking is a known cause of early damage to the abdominal aorta, which can ultimately lead to an aneurysm. Aneurysms are hard to catch before they rupture — and a ruptured aneurysm is life-threatening. Almost all deaths of abdominal aortic aneurysms are caused by smoking and are considered preventable deaths.


Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease and is responsible for roughly 1 in 4 of those deaths. Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes each day show early signs of the disease, and the risk increases alongside the number of cigarettes. According to the CDC, lower levels of tar and nicotine do not reduce the risk.


Smokeless tobacco use causes an immediate increase in heart rate and blood pressure due to the potent nicotine inside. With every use, the heart rate increases by roughly 19 beats per minute, and extended use can result in a higher resting heart rate among otherwise healthy people, which increases with age.


Secondhand Smoke

Exposure to secondhand smoke can also lead to heart disease. In fact, more than 33,000 nonsmokers die every year from cardiovascular disease caused by exposure to secondhand smoke in the United States alone. Secondhand smoke also leads to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The negative impacts of smoking and tobacco use on heart health cannot be overstated. From coronary artery disease to stroke, the toll on cardiovascular health is life-threatening but, more importantly, preventable. While it is still unknown when exactly tobacco users develop cardiovascular disease, the best thing a person can do for their overall health is quit tobacco and nicotine products. Studies show that the risk of heart attack drops dramatically within a year of quitting, even for those who have previously had a heart attack. Within five years of quitting, the risk of heart disease drops to that of a nonsmoker.

If you or someone you know is considering quitting tobacco for their health, reach out to our friends at the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline. Call 1-800-QUIT NOW, or visit to learn more.

Published by Tobacco Stops With Me on March 15, 2024