Healthy living

Smoking and tobacco

  • Tobacco smoke contains many chemicals that are harmful to smokers and non-smokers.
  • Smoking can cause 16 different types of cancer and other health issues such as asthma.
  • Support is available to help you quit smoking.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and illness in WA causing over 1,500 deaths every year.

Two out of three long term smokers will die early from a disease caused by smoking.

Health effects of smoking

Tobacco smoke contains many chemicals that are harmful to smokers and non-smokers. Of the 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 250 are known to be harmful and 69 cause cancer.

Nicotine is the addictive drug in tobacco. After you’ve been smoking for a while, your body gets used to nicotine and relies on it to feel normal.

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and can cause 16 different types of cancer.

Smoking can also cause many other health issues, such as:

  • asthma
  • heart and blood circulation diseases
  • lung diseases
  • eye diseases
  • dental diseases
  • diseases of the stomach, gut and bowel.

Smoking can harm your immune system, which means you may get sick more often and take longer to recover than non-smokers.

Learn more about the health effects of smoking and tobacco on the Australian Government Department of Health website (external site).

Risks of second-hand smoke

Being exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke (known as second-hand smoke) is also dangerous, especially for children.

Second-hand smoke refers to the smoke from the end of a burning tobacco cigarette and the smoke exhaled out by a smoker.

When the people around you breathe in this smoke, sometimes called passive smoking, it can cause a range of short-term and long-term health effects.

Exposure to second-hand smoke can cause coronary heart disease and lung cancer in non-smokers, and increase the risk of:

Non-smokers can also experience eye, nasal and throat irritation, a cough, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Learn more about passive smoking on the Australian Department of Health website (external site).

Benefits of quitting smoking

Quitting smoking has major health benefits at any age, even if you already have a smoking-caused illness. The moment you stop smoking your body begins to repair itself almost straight away and you reduce your risk of developing many other smoking-caused illnesses.

It is never too late to quit. Quitting smoking is one of the best things a smoker can do to improve and protect their health.

After 12 hours, the excess carbon monoxide is out of your blood. After 24 hours, the oxygen level in your blood increases, improving your circulation. Your risk of heart attack begins to decrease. After 5 days, most nicotine is out of your body.
Within a week, your sense of taste and smell begins to improve. Within a month, your skin appearance is likely to improve. Within 2 months, your immune system improves. Your lungs' natural cleaning system starts to heal and become better at removing mucus, tar and dust from your lungs.
Within 3 months, your lung function and blood flow improve. Within 9 months, coughing, sinus congestion, and shortness of breath all decrease. After 12 months, your risk of heart disease has halved.
After 5 years, your risk of stroke has significantly decreased. After 10 years, the risk of lung cancer (if you do not already have the disease) is halved. After fifteen years, your risk of heart disease is almost the same as a person who has never smoked.
Research shows, in the long term, the average weight of ex-smokers is similar to people who have never smoked. Even though withdrawal symptoms can be hard, remember they are a good sign. They show your body is adjusting to being free from the chemicals in tobacco smoke. Quitting smoking at any age will result in major and immediate health benefits. This applies to people with and without diseases caused by smoking.
Quitting smoking is the single best way to protect family members, coworkers, friends and others from health risks associated with passive smoking. Most smokers want to quit. Research shows that more than 75 per cent of smokers have made at least 1 attempt to quit. There are many different ways you can quit smoking (external site). Quitting smoking saves you money. If you smoke 20 cigarettes a day, you can save over $9000 in a year if you quit smoking. Use the Quit HQ calculator (external site) to see how much you can save.

Learn more about benefits of quitting smoking on the Australian Government Department of Health website (external site).

Support to quit smoking

Quitline – 13 78 48 (13 QUIT)

Quitline (external site) provides confidential telephone support for people who want to quit smoking or want more information about quitting smoking. A trained counsellor can help you to plan and develop strategies to quit smoking for good.

Quitline counsellors also provide support to Aboriginal callers in a positive and respectful manner. An Aboriginal counsellor can be requested.

The WA Department of Health funds Western Australia’s Quitline service.

Opening hours:

  • Monday – Friday: 8am to 8pm
  • Saturday and Sunday : Closed

For more information visit About the WA Quitline (external site) or call 13 QUIT (13 7848).

Make Smoking History

Make Smoking History (external site) raises awareness of the harm caused by smoking, the benefits of quitting and helps smokers by providing information and resources to support quitting.

Make Smoking History is delivered by Cancer Council WA and is jointly funded by the Department of Health WA, Healthway and the Cancer Council WA.

My QuitBuddy app

My QuitBuddy (external site) is an app that helps you quit and stay quit. It provides tips to help overcome cravings, tracking systems to chart your progress and the facts to help you understand the impact smoking has on your health.

Quit Coach

Quit Coach (external site) provides you with a personalised quitting plan. It is free and provides useful advice wherever you are on your quitting journey.

Smoking and pregnancy

Smoking during pregnancy is known to effect babies even before they are born. There is no safe amount of smoking. Stopping smoking before or during pregnancy will give a baby the best start to a healthy life.

The placenta and umbilical cord play a vital role during pregnancy. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen available to the baby through the umbilical cord. This makes the baby’s heart beat more rapidly and increases overall stress on its developing body. Smoking can also reduce the flow of blood through the placenta, which limits the amount of nutrients that feed the baby.

Smoking increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, delivering a premature or low birth weight baby, or having a still birth.

There is also a strong link between Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) and smoking during pregnancy and after birth.

Help and support to quit smoking before or during pregnancy can be provided by a GP, midwife or obstetrician, or Quitline (13 7848) (external site).

Learn more about smoking and pregnancy on the Australian Government Department of Health website (external site).

Visit the Raising Children Network for information about smoking and pregnancy explained in pictures (external site).

Smoke-free places

Smoking is banned in public places

Smoking is banned in and around all enclosed public places, including licenced venues and many outdoor areas. This includes shopping centres, office buildings, sporting and recreation centres and community centres. Read more about smoking in public places.

Smoke-free strata-housing

The Australian Council on Smoking and Health has developed a resource called a Guide for smoke-free strata housing in Western Australia (external site). The guide helps community members and strata managers understand the benefits of smoke-free housing and provides advice on how to resolve disputes relating to smoke drift.

Smoke-free workplaces

A workplace refers to a premises or area where one or more employees or self- employed persons (or both) work, whether they receive a payment for that work or not.

In Western Australia, smoking in the workplace is covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (external site) and administered by Worksafe WA (external site). These Regulations prohibit employers, employees and self-employed persons from smoking in enclosed workplaces, including a vehicle.

Read more about smoke-free workplaces on the Cancer Council WA website (external site).

WA health system smoke-free policy

All WA Health premises, including hospitals and health services, are smoke-free.

The WA Department of Health’s smoke-free policy sets the minimum standards for all WA Health system premises to achieve a smoke-free environment and aims to prevent exposure to second-hand smoke.

Smoking and tobacco laws in WA

WA legislation covers the sale and supply of cigarettes, tobacco promotion and advertising, and smoke-free areas. Smoke-free laws aim to reduce community exposure to second-hand smoke.

It is also illegal to sell goods that are designed to resemble tobacco products, for example electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).

In WA, smoking restrictions are regulated by The Tobacco Products Control Act 2006 (external site) and the Tobacco Products Control Regulations 2006 (external site).

Find out more about the laws on smoking in WA on the Western Australian Department of Health website (external site) and national tobacco control laws on the Australian Government Department of Health website (external site).

Last reviewed: 12-07-2022

Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.