The damage caused by smoking

In figures

In 2005, 26.5% of adults (more men than women) and 33% of young people smoked. Although the number of smokers has fallen in the past 20 or so years, every year still sees 70,000 smoking-related deaths, including 6,000 caused by passive smoking. According to Swiss smoking advice organization Stop Tabac, these are caused by the smoke itself, which contains 4,000 chemicals including 60 that are potentially carcinogenic.

'Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable deaths in France.' (EM Consulte)

81% of smokers are less than 35 years old. Below is a breakdown of smokers by age bracket:

Répartition fumeurs selon âge

Source: Statista, 2010

Active smoking

Although the public is aware of most of the causes of nicotine addition, many people continue to smoke. Below are just some of the diseases that can be caused by smoking:

  • o   Lung, throat, mouth, lip, pancreatic, kidney, bladder, and uterine cancer
  • o   Cardiovascular disease
  • o   Respiratory diseases
    • Chronic bronchitis
    • Respiratory failure
    • Emphysema
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Gastritis
  • Gastro-duodenal ulcers
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypercholesterolaemia
  • Hypertriglyceridaemia
  • Eczema
  • Psoriasis
  • Lupus
  • ENT (ear, nose and throat) infections and dental infections
  • Cataracts
  • AMD (age-related macular degeneration), blindness
  • Gum disease, tooth loss
  • ...

Passive smoking

Passive smoking is the involuntary inhalation of smoke. In order to understand its impact, it is important to note that there are three types of smoke:

  • Directly inhaled smoke or mainstream smoke, known as active smoking.
  • Secondary or sidestream smoke whose name derives from the fact that it escapes from cigarettes. This is passive smoking, which is particularly dangerous for non-smokers as the smoke is unfiltered.
  • Thirdhand smoke is smoke exhaled by smokers and is less harmful.

Tabac enfant


In many cases, children are the victims of passive smoking. The consequences for them can be more serious as they are more vulnerable. Their vital organs and immune systems are not yet fully developed.

There are two forms of passive smoking. In the first, the foetus is exposed to tobacco by its mother smoking. The second relates to involuntary inhalation and is classified as environmental smoking.

There are many symptoms of passive smoking:

  • Stinging, watery eyes
  • Swollen and reddened mucous membranes
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Breathlessness
  • Tiredness

It can also cause several illnesses:

  • Cancer
  • Pregnancy complications
    • Miscarriages
    • Ectopic pregnancies
    • Premature births
  • Sudden infant death (risk doubled or tripled by smoking)
  • Respiratory problems
    • Upper airway infections (rhinitis, tonsillitis, sinusitis, ear infections, laryngitis) and lower airway infections (bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pulmonary disease, etc.)
    • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer, accounting for 85-90% of smoking-related deaths
  • Cardiovascular disease

Significant changes in the law have been introduced to protect both non-smokers and smokers. Since 2006, it has been illegal to smoke in enclosed public spaces or workplaces.

What can you do to protect yourself and your children?

If you do not smoke, avoid smoky areas and particularly enclosed spaces. Do not be fooled by ventilation systems, which only eliminate the visible smoke and not the toxins. If you are a smoker, do not allow your children to come near you while you are smoking and avoid smoking in the house. Ideally, try to stop smoking. You will feel the initial benefits just 20 minutes after your last cigarette and your children will thank you for it. Several methods are available to help you stop smoking – nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, hypnosis, energy therapy, sophrology, assistance from allied health professionals, e-cigarettes, and smart lighters. Just choose the method that suits you.

For further information on smoking-related diseases, visit the website You can even calculate the cost of your habit and get advice on stopping smoking.