Smoking and cancer

Facts: The link between smoking and cancer                                            

  • Smoking is a cause of cancer in many parts of the body.
  • Smoking causes the death of 5,000 New Zealander’s each year.
  • Half of all regular smokers die early from a smoking related disease.

Smoking increases the risk of getting cancer. The link between smoking and cancer is very clear after years of research both here in New Zealand, and internationally.

Smoking causes many types of cancer including:

  • lung
  • oesophagus
  • mouth
  • upper throat
  • pancreas
  • bladder
  • bowel
  • larynx
  • kidney
  • stomach
  • liver
  • leukaemia
  • ovary
  • cervix.

What is cancer?

Cancer starts from normal cells that get damaged and then continue to grow out of control.

A smoker increases their risk of cancer because the chemicals in cigarette smoke damage DNA and weaken the immune system.

DNA controls normal cell growth. Smoking damages DNA, the cells can then grow into a cancer tumour.


Photo a good lung and a bad lung

 (left to right: good lung and bad lung)


Cigarettes look pretty harmless don’t they; shredded tobacco leaves rolled up in white paper? BUT: 

  • smoking and related death rates are highest among Māori and Pacific Island peoples
  • the World Health Organization estimates that tobacco could cause a billion deaths in 21st century, if current trends continue
  • tobacco is addictive; nicotine in tobacco creates short term pleasant feelings when inhaled through a cigarette
  • the pleasant feelings only last a few minutes, and so you want to have another cigarette
  • nicotine is highly addictive
  • nicotine speeds up your heart rate, and increases your blood pressure.




When cigarettes burn, a dangerous cocktail of over 4,000 chemicals are released, including:

  • nicotine, a highly addictive drug
  • many cancer causing chemicals
  • hundreds of poisons
  • many additives designed to make cigarettes taste nicer and keep smokers hooked.

Some of these chemicals, like nicotine, are found naturally in the tobacco plant.

Other chemicals, are formed when the tobacco leaves are processed or burnt. 

Hundreds of other chemicals are added to cigarettes to make them taste better, and enhance the body’s reaction to nicotine. 

Your body’s immune system usually fights and kills cancer cells but when it is weakened the cancer cells can keep growing. So a cancer is abnormal cells growing out of control that can spread throughout the body. These chemicals increase your risk of cancer, because the chemicals in cigarette smoke damage DNA and weaken the immune system.

There is no safe way to use tobacco.

Quit for your kids.


Quitline   Smokefree 2025