Content From: HIV.govUpdated: November 09, 20203 min read


Living healthy with HIV includes living a tobacco-free life.

How Does Smoking Affect People with HIV?

Smoking is dangerous for everyone. It harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and affects the health of smokers in general. The risks of serious health consequences are much higher for people with HIV, who smoke at twice the rate of the general population.

Smokers with HIV are more likely than nonsmokers with HIV to develop:

  • Lung cancer, head and neck cancers, cervical and anal cancers, and other cancers;
  • Heart disease and stroke;
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and
  • Serious HIV-related infections, including bacterial pneumonia.

Smokers with HIV are also more likely to have a poorer response to HIV treatment, a greater chance of developing a life-threatening illness that leads to an AIDS diagnosis, and a shorter lifespan than people with HIV who do not smoke. In fact, one studyExit Disclaimer found that people with HIV who adhere to antiretroviral therapy (ART) but smoke are substantially more likely to die from lung cancer than from AIDS-related causes.

Why Should You Quit Smoking?

Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits for all tobacco users. In fact, quitting smoking may be one of the most important steps toward better health that a person with HIV can take.

The benefits include:

  • Lowering your risk of lung cancer and many other types of cancer;
  • Reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke, and COPD;
  • Reducing HIV-related symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, and body pain;
  • Improving your quality of life; and
  • Increasing your life expectancy.

According to CDC, quitting smoking is beneficial to your health at any age. Every people who have smoked for many years or have smoked heavily will benefit from quitting.

In addition to quitting smoking, do your best to avoid secondhand smoke, which is smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and smoke that is breathed out from other people smoking. There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. It has immediate harmful effects on your heart and blood vessels, and causes heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

Get Help to Quit Smoking

Talk with your healthcare provider about programs and products that can help you quit smoking. There isn’t one right way to quit. Explore your options and find a quit method that’s right for you.

Get tips for quitting from Tips From Former Smokers, CDC’s national tobacco education campaign. The campaign features the real stories of people who are living with smoking-related health conditions, including HIV.

Find more information on the health benefits of quitting smoking. Visit or call the Smoking Quitline: 877-44U-QUIT (877-448-7848).

It’s never too late to quit.

Smoking and COVID-19

Being a current or former cigarette smoker increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Not smoking is one of the best ways to protect and improve your health. If you currently smoke, quit. If you used to smoke, don’t start again. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start. Learn more about Smoking and COVID-19.

What About E-Cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are devices that heat liquid into an aerosol that the user breathes in and out. They are considered tobacco products because most of them contain nicotine, which comes from tobacco. Scientists are still learning about their long-term health effects. But they know that nicotine is highly addictive and harmful for youth, young adults, and pregnant woman, and that e-cigarettes can also contain cancer-causing chemicals and tiny particles that get into your lungs. E-cigarettes are not currently approved by the FDA as a quit smoking aid. Talk to your healthcare provider and use proven-effective methods to quit.