Smoking and Drugs


Tobacco smoke contains more than 5000 different chemicals. These include:

  • Benzine
  • Polonium 210
  • Arsenic
  • Chromium
  • Nickel
  • Formaldehyde

At least 70 of the chemicals in tobacco smoke are known to cause cancer. They do this by weakening the immune system and damaging the DNA  of normal cells causing mutations that can lead to cancer.

Cigarettes, cigars and pipe smoking carry all carry risks.

Shisha Pipes

Some people believe shisha pies (hookahs) are safer than cigarettes as the smoke is filtered through water, however many toxins still get through and as the tobacco is burned in charcoal the carbon monoxide content is up to 17 times higher than cigarettes. It is believed shisha is just as dangerous as any other use of tobacco.

Smokeless Tobacco

The main forms are:

  • Chewing tobacco
  • Snuff

Both significantly increase the risk of mouth cancer

Betel Quid

Also known as paan or gutkha this consists of betel or areca nut, slaked lime, herbs, spices and often tobacco wrapped in a leaf and chewed or held in the side of the mouth. It is most popular among Asian cultures. Betel nut itself causes cancer and mixed with other ingredients produces a highly toxic cocktail. Use of paan is also associated with the condition called submucous fibrosis which causes the skin and underlying tissues of the mouth to become hard, limiting speech, eating and movement of the jaw and frequently becoming cancer.


Marijuana suppresses the immune system. Recent research suggests that marijuana mixed with tobacco and smoked increases the risk of cancer in those infected with the human papilloma virus.

As well as causing mouth cancer smoking is responsible for 4 out of 5 cases of lung cancer. It also accelerates gum disease, the greatest cause of tooth loss in the UK as well as damaging the senses of taste and smell.

About 90% of people with mouth cancer use tobacco. Smoking increases the risk of mouth cancer and throat cancer about 6-fold. The good news is that quitting leads to a significant reduction of risk  within 5 years.