Even brief exposure to tobacco smoke causes immediate harm to the body, damaging cells and inflaming tissue in ways that can lead to serious illness and death, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s new report on tobacco, the first such report in four years.
While the report, out today, focuses on the medical effects of smoke on the body, it also sheds light on why cigarettes are so addictive: They are designed to deliver nicotine more quickly and more efficiently than cigarettes did decades ago.
Every exposure to tobacco, from occasional smoking or secondhand smoke, can damage DNA in ways that lead to cancer.
“Tobacco smoke damages almost every organ in your body,” says Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. In someone with underlying heart disease, she says, “One cigarette can cause a heart attack.”
About 40 million Americans smoke — 20% of adults and older teens.