Diseases Caused by Smoking Tobacco

According to a report by the Office of the Surgeon General, the single greatest avoidable cause of death and disease is smoking. One set of diseases smoking can cause are those that affect your respiratory system. Three respiratory diseases caused by smoking tobacco are emphysema, chronic bronchitis and lung cancer.


Emphysema occurs when the air sacs at the ends of your bronchioles are gradually destroyed. If you are diagnosed with emphysema, there is a greater chance you will develop a more serious condition known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in which the symptoms of emphysema occur more frequently. According to an article on emphysema by the Mayo Clinic, as emphysema gets worse, the condition turns the round air sacs in your lungs into large, uneven pockets with cavernous holes in their inner walls. This lessens the number of air sacs and prevents some of the oxygen entering your lungs from making its way into your bloodstream. The Mayo Clinic warns that continuing to smoke can create further lung damage in a person diagnosed with emphysema, which may eventually lead to lung cancer.

Chronic Bronchitis

Bronchitis occurs when the major air passages to the lungs become inflamed. Many people can develop bronchitis, but smokers are more likely to experience recurring flare ups. This is known as chronic bronchitis. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, people with bronchitis experience coughing that produces excessive mucus. In order for you to be diagnosed with chronic bronchitis, on most days of the month for at least 3 months you must have a cough accompanied by mucus. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that the first step in treating smoke-induced chronic bronchitis is to stop smoking. To treat symptoms of bronchitis, it is recommended you increase the humidity in the air to ease a scratchy or dry throat.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to an article on lung cancer by the Mayo Clinic, doctors agree that smoking can cause lung cancer by destroying the cells that line the lungs. When you inhale smoke from a cigarette, changes in the tissue of the lungs begin almost instantaneously. Some symptoms of lung cancer are shortness of breath, fluid build up in your chest and coughing up blood. Treatments can include chemotherapy, surgery, and therapy with radiation.

About this Author

Antonius Ortega is a 13-year veteran of the fitness industry and an athletic trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. His articles on fitness, health and travel have appeared in newspapers such as the “The Hornet,” “The Daily Bruin,” and “Stars and Stripes.” Ortega trains in Orange County.