Cardiovascular Peripheral Artery Disease

How Smoking Affects the Blood Vessels

The health risks associated with smoking are often regarded as common knowledge, which is why roughly 70 percent of American smokers want to quit. Unfortunately, according to a recent government study, only 6 percent succeed 1. Although damage to the lungs is common knowledge, many have no idea that smoking is also bad for their blood vessels and is among the many causes of peripheral artery disease (PAD).

The chemicals in tobacco detrimentally affect how the heart and blood vessels function. This can increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries. Over time, plaque can harden and cause your arteries to narrow, limiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your organs and other parts of your body.2

Smoking and Peripheral Artery Disease

There is a very strong connection between smoking and peripheral artery disease (PAD). Reportedly, smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day may increase your risk of having PAD by up to 50 percent.4 Additionally, about 90 percent of patients with PAD have a history of smoking.3

Most smokers learn about the impact that smoking has on the lower extremities when a physician diagnoses them with PAD. Any amount of smoking, even occasionally, damages the heart and blood vessels. Secondhand smoke also can hurt the heart and blood vessels, greatly increasing the risk of heart attack and death in adults.3

Why You Should Quit Smoking

Considering the risks and how so many smokers who actually want to quit face challenges, it is incredibly important to quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of PAD by up to six times and makes the symptoms worse. 5 Initiatives like Take Down Tobacco National Day of Action help encourage smokers to kick the habit.

By quitting smoking, PAD patients can increase their chances of long-term survival. In fact, one study found that 82 percent of former smokers were still alive after 10 years, compared with only 46 percent of patients who continued smoking.3

Regardless of how much or how long you’ve smoked, quitting has a variety of benefits, including reducing your risk of developing heart disease, having a stroke, lowering your risk of atherosclerosis, blood clots, and PAD. 2

Tips for Quitting Smoking

Quitting smoking is truly a journey, not just a single event that happens on one day. In order to quit, you will have to put the prospect of improving your health, and the quality and duration of your life as your focus.

With the right plan, your journey will be off on the right step with some of the following ways one can begin the quitting journey. Here are five ways to tackle smoking cessation:

  • Prepare for the Quit Day.
  • Know your triggers and avoid them early on.
  • Know that the first few days are the toughest.
  • Don’t give in to your cravings.
  • Try a new hobby with friends who don’t smoke.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR)Quitting Smoking Among Adults (accessed 3/12, 2021)
  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Smoking and your heart. (accessed March 12, 2021)
  3. Lu JT, Creager MA. The relationship of cigarette smoking to peripheral arterial disease. Rev Cardiovasc Med. 2004 Fall;5(4):189-93. Review. PubMed PMID: 15580157. (accessed March 12, 2021)
  4. Vascular Disease Foundation. Life Saving Tips About… Smoking and PAD (accessed March 12, 2021)
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Fact Sheet (accessed March 12, 2021)
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