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Tobacco is a plant with leaves that are dried or cured to make a variety of products that people smoke or chew. These products include cigarettes, cigars, little cigars (cigarillos), pipes, flavoured tobacco for water pipes (hookahs or shishas), chewing tobacco and snuff. Using tobacco in any form is not considered to be safe. All tobacco products contain nicotine, which is very addictive. Using tobacco products causes different health problems, including cancer, heart disease and lung disease.

Tobacco and your health

Smoking tobacco products is harmful to your health. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals. More than 70 of these chemicals cause cancer. Smoking tobacco is the main risk factor for 4 of the leading causes of death in Canada (cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease). About 37,000 people die each year in Canada as a result of smoking tobacco.

The link between smoking tobacco products and cancer is very clear. In Canada, it is estimated that smoking is responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths and is related to more than 85% of all lung cancer cases. Smoking is also linked to many other types of cancer, such as mouth (oral), esophageal, stomach, pancreatic, colorectal, bladder and kidney cancers.

Second-hand smoke is also very harmful. Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke breathe in the same harmful chemicals as smokers. No exposure to second-hand smoke is safe.

Using smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco or snuff, can also affect your health. These products increase the risk for different types of cancer and can lead to gum disease, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

Reducing your risk

Smoking tobacco is the leading preventable cause of premature death in Canada. Not using tobacco is one of the most effective ways to lower the number of Canadians who die each year.

You can help reduce your risk of developing cancer and other tobacco-related illnesses by doing the following:

  • Live smoke-free. If you smoke, get help to quit.
  • Don’t use any tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, pipes and chewing tobacco.
  • Avoid second-hand smoke.


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