Surgeon general: Tobacco smoke causes 'immediate' damage

Exposure to tobacco smoke, even occasional smoking or secondhand smoke, inflicts immediate damage to a person’s body that can cause serious illness or death, according to a surgeon general’s report released Thursday morning.

According to the 727-page report, tobacco smokes causes immediate cellular damage and tissue inflammation, and repeated exposure weakens the body’s ability to heal the damage.

“The chemicals in tobacco smoke reach your lungs quickly every time you inhale, causing damage immediately,” said Surgeon General Regina Benjamin in a statement. “Inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can also damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer.”

Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause cardiovascular disease and trigger a heart attack, the report said. Chemicals in tobacco smoke quickly damage blood vessels and make blood more likely to clot.

The report also said today’s cigarettes deliver nicotine more quickly and efficiently, making cigarettes more addictive than they were in years past.