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Terrible Tobacco Truths

Tobacco use is a major cause of death worldwide. Smoking causes millions of deaths each year, and smokeless tobacco use and vaping are not safe alternatives to smoking.

Health Edco was founded by Dr. Wayman R. Spence, an early anti-smoking advocate who created the Lung Ashtray, an innovative teaching tool that helped viewers see what tobacco smoke does to the lungs. Today, Health Edco has a wide range of tobacco education materials and models that creatively and effectively teach how tobacco use causes negative health consequences throughout the body, often resulting in death. The push for tobacco education is just as important now as it was in the beginning of the anti-smoking movement, as more and more countries around the world look to stop tobacco use.

Read on to learn some of the many terrible truths of tobacco use, and discover just a few of our tobacco education materials that effectively teach about the deadly consequences of tobacco use, nicotine addiction, and the importance of quitting tobacco.

Tobacco Kills

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide, killing more than 8 million people each year. More than 7 million of these deaths are the result of direct tobacco use, while more than 1 million deaths occur as result of exposure to secondhand smoke. Up to half all tobacco users will die as result of their habit. On average, a smoker is likely to die 10 years earlier than a nonsmoker. Smoking tobacco—whether in a cigarette, cigar, or pipe—leads to disease and death.

Our Effects & Hazards of Smoking Folding Display
covers the many health risks posed by smoking.

Secondhand Smoke

Those who inhale secondhand smoke—also called passive or environmental tobacco smoke—face many of the same health risks as smokers, including tobacco-related death. Continued secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of cancer, heart disease, and severe respiratory diseases. Infants who live with smokers have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, or middle-ear problems. Secondhand smoke has been identified as a human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).

Young Addiction

Nicotine is the addictive stimulant drug in tobacco. Today’s tobacco products are carefully designed nicotine-delivery systems that can lead to long-term nicotine dependency. Because brain development continues until about age 25, young people are especially susceptible to the addictive power of nicotine. Tobacco companies rigorously recruit young smokers to replace those who quit or die from tobacco-related diseases. Most smokers start smoking before age 18. Tobacco companies similarly target young people—particularly young men—to get them hooked on smokeless tobacco. Every year, millions of teenagers begin using tobacco for the first time, but most people could avoid nicotine addiction by staying tobacco-free while they are young.

E-Cigarettes and Vaping Devices

E-cigarettes and vaping devices provide another opportunity to get young people hooked on nicotine. Attracted by the flavors, bright colors, and sleek designs of e-liquids and vaping devices, young people can quickly get addicted to the nicotine contained in most e-cigarettes. Although the health risks of e-cigarettes are not fully known, the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices has resulted in serious lung injury and death.

Our new E-Cigarettes & Vaping: A Closer Look 3-D Display
uses realistic models and clear text to present the facts about vaping.

Smokeless Tobacco

Like cigars, pipes, and e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco is not a safe alternative to cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco use has multiple negative health consequences. Negative oral health consequences of smokeless tobacco—including gum inflammation, receding gums, worn teeth, cavities, and tooth loss—are just a few of the harmful health effects smokeless tobacco use can cause.

Cancer Risk

In addition to causing dental problems, smokeless tobacco contains dozens of known carcinogens and can cause potentially deadly cancers of neck and oral cavity. Tobacco smoke contains approximately 70 known carcinogens. Smoking causes the vast majority of cases of lung cancer. Smoking also causes cancers of the mouth, cervix, kidney, larynx, esophagus, stomach, throat, pancreas, and bladder.

Lung Damage

Smoking is the primary cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a leading cause of death worldwide. The two most common types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and smoking is the major cause of both. Lungs damaged by emphysema have less surface area for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which leads to shortness of breath. Chronic bronchitis leads to excessive mucus production in the lungs, causing cough and difficulty breathing.

Our Cough Up a Lung™ Model depicts a
smoker’s lung damaged by COPD and cancer.

Heart Disease

Heart disease occurs because plaque builds up and coats the arteries. The flow of blood is then blocked. Smokers are 2–3 more times likely to die from heart disease than nonsmokers. Nicotine also elevates heart rate and blood pressure while carbon monoxide reduces oxygen in the blood. As a result, a smoker’s heart must work harder to circulate blood. Similarly, because of its high nicotine content, smokeless tobacco use can cause cardiovascular problems, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, high cholesterol, and increased risk of heart disease and stroke. In addition, studies suggest that the gum disease and poor dental health that smokeless tobacco use can cause are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

Other Conditions

In addition to cancers, emphysema, and heart disease, smoking causes many other diseases and conditions, including strokes, infertility, cavities, bronchitis, and erectile dysfunction. Smoking reduces the effectiveness of the immune system, increasing the chance of becoming ill.

Dangerous Ingredients

Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, most of which are poisonous. With each puff, smokers slowly poison themselves. Some of these deadly chemicals are:

  • Nicotine—Addictive drug and insectide

  • Hydrogen Cyanide—Chemical weapon

  • Formaldehyde—Embalming preservative

  • Cadmium—Component in rechargeable batteries

  • Naphthalene—Mothball chemical

  • Carbon Monoxide—Car exhaust

  • Ammonia—Household cleaner

  • Acetone—Nail polish remover

  • Lead—Nerve poison

  • Vinyl Chloride—Plastic pipe

  • Methanol—Rocket fuel

  • Arsenic—Poison

  • Polonium-210—Radioactive compound

Teach about the toxins in tobacco smoke
with our Tobacco Ingredients™ Display.

E-cigarette vapor has been found to contain multiple dangerous substances, including cancer-causing agents, toxic metals, and volatile organic compounds as well as ultrafine particles and flavorings that may damage the lungs.

In addition to containing dozens of known cancer-causing agents, smokeless tobacco contains many of the same dangerous chemicals in tobacco smoke, including arsenic, cadmium, formaldehyde, lead, and polonium-210.

Gateway to Other Drugs

Smokers, especially those under 18, are more likely to become heavy drinkers or users of other substances. Many people who use marijuana started out as smokers. Young people who use e-cigarettes may increase their risk of becoming cigarette smokers or becoming addicted to other addictive drugs, such as methamphetamine.


Tobacco costs the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars each year because of premature death, medical care, and missed days of work. Smokers have more expenses because of higher life insurance premiums; extra taxes on cigarettes; replacement costs for damaged furniture, clothes and interiors; and the cost of cigarettes themselves. Smokers, smokeless tobacco users, and users of e-cigarettes often spend a significant portion of their income to support their habit.

Appearance and Premature Aging

Smokers are more likely to have facial wrinkles at an earlier age than nonsmokers. Smokers often have bad breath and yellow tobacco stains on their hands and teeth. The oral consequences of smokeless tobacco use—inflamed and receding gums; worn, broken teeth; tooth loss; and black hairy tongue—are not attractive.

Sure to leave a lasting impression, Mr. Gross Mouth™ provides an inside
look at the terrible oral devastation smokeless tobacco use can cause.

Pregnancy and Tobacco

Pregnant women who smoke are at increased risk of having pregnancy complications and more likely to have a baby that is premature, low-birthweight, or stillborn. Babies born prematurely or at low birthweight are at increased risk of serious health problems, chronic disabilities, and death. Smoking during pregnancy also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Smokeless tobacco use during pregnancy is associated with premature birth and stillbirth. Because nicotine is toxic to developing babies, pregnant women should also avoid all e-cigarettes and vaping devices.

Our Smoking Cessation Package contains handouts
and displays to help smokers successfully quit smoking.


Nicotine has a powerful effect on the brain. These effects make nicotine highly addictive. Quitting nicotine—whether the nicotine is in cigarettes, pipes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, or e-cigarettes—is not easy, but the health benefits are well worth it. Help to quit is available. If you or someone know is addicted to nicotine and wants to quit, contact your healthcare professional to learn how to quit nicotine successfully.

Discover Our Tobacco Education Resources

Our innovative Health Edco tobacco education materials and models are the perfect resources to teach about the dangers of nicotine addiction whether from smoking, using dip or chew, or vaping. Discover more of our tobacco teaching tools and products to inspire tobacco cessation in our tobacco education products section.

The information contained in this article is not intended to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. If you have any questions, please contact your healthcare professional.

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