7 min read

Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared with people who have never smoked.

Stopping smoking has huge benefits and it’s never too late to give up.

Why should I quit?

Stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health, and the good news is that the risk to your heart health decreases significantly soon after you stop.

By quitting you’ll be improving your own health by dramatically reducing your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and a variety of cancers. You’ll feel better, and have more money to spend on other things that you enjoy.

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How does smoking damage your heart?

Smoking increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, which includes coronary heart disease and stroke.

  • Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a build up of fatty material (atheroma) which narrows the artery. This can cause angina, a heart attack or a stroke.
  • The carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. This means your heart has to pump harder to supply the body with the oxygen it needs.
  • The nicotine in cigarettes stimulates your body to produce adrenaline, which makes your heart beat faster and raises your blood pressure, making your heart work harder.
  • Your blood is more likely to clot, which increases your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Take a look at our cardiovascular disease page to find out more about blood clots and the damage they can do to your body.

Second-hand smoke

When non-smokers breathe in second-hand smoke - also known as passive smoking - it can be harmful. Research shows that exposure to second hand tobacco smoke is a cause of heart disease in non-smokers, which means you could be harming the health of your children, partner and friends.

The dangers of chewing tobacco

Chewing tobacco is not a healthier alternative to smoking; it can increase your risk of mouth cancer, throat cancer and cancer of the oesophagus (food pipe). It can also make your teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay and can cause tooth loss.

Other ways of using tobacco

Find out more about how shisha can damage your health

Get the right support

Remember that you’re not alone. You can get support to quit.


Download our Stop smoking booklet, and join our free Heart Matters service, who can help you with support and advice.

On the phone

You can also call the NHS Smoking Helpline

In England 0300 123 1044
In Wales 0800 085 2219
In Scotland 0800 84 84 84
In Northern Ireland 0808 812 8008

In person in your area

Your doctor, practice nurse or pharmacist can give you advice on quitting and information on:

  • joining a stop smoking clinic or stop smoking group,
  • using nicotine replacement products, and
  • taking medication to help you stop smoking.

Practical tips to help you stop smoking

  • Make a date to give up - and stick to it! Throw away all your tobacco, lighters and ashtrays.
  • Make a plan.Think about what could help you stop smoking, such as using a nicotine-replacement product, and have it ready before the date you plan to stop.
  • Think smart and download or order our stop smoking booklet
  • Get support and let your family and friends know that you're quitting. Some people find that talking to friends and relatives who have stopped can be helpful. You can also talk to your doctor, practice nurse, pharmacist, or one of the organisations listed above about what support is available to you.
  • Keep busy to help take your mind off cigarettes. Try to change your routine, and avoid the shop where you normally buy cigarettes.
  • Treat yourself. If you can, use the money you're saving by not smoking to buy yourself something special.

Researching heart disease

Your money helps us fund hundreds of top scientists all over the UK, including the work of Professor Cathy Shanahan, whose work is giving us vital insight into how smoking and diet can contribute to the development of heart disease.

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