How Does Smoking Affect People Living with HIV?
Smoking is dangerous for everyone—it is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. But the risks of serious health consequences are much higher for people living with HIV, who smoke at a rate 2 to 3 times greater than the general population.
Smoking has many negative health effects on people living with HIV. For example, smokers living with HIV are more likely than nonsmokers with HIV to:
- Develop lung cancer, head and neck cancers, cervical and anal cancers, and other cancers;
- Develop bacterial pneumonia; pneumocystis pneumonia, a dangerous lung infection; COPD, and heart disease;
- Develop conditions that affect the mouth, such as oral candidiasis (thrush) and oral hairy leukoplakia;
- Have a poorer response to antiretroviral therapy (ART);
- Have a greater chance of developing a life-threatening illness that leads to an AIDS diagnosis, and
- Have a shorter lifespan than people living with HIV who do not smoke.
In fact, one study looking at the risk of lung cancer death due to smoking for a person living with HIV found that smokers living with HIV who are adherent to antiretroviral therapy (ART) are more six to 13 times more likely to die of lung cancer than from AIDS-related causes.
What Are the Health Benefits of Quitting?
Quitting smoking has major and immediate health benefits for tobacco users, including people living with HIV. These 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,
- Having an improved quality of life, and
- Reducing your risk for infertility if you are a woman of childbearing age. Women who stop smoking during pregnancy also reduce their risk of having a low birth weight baby.
You are never too old to quit.
Find Help to Quit Smoking
Talk with your health care provider about programs and products that can help you quit smoking.
You also can learn about the benefits of quitting smoking and get tips for quitting from CDC’s national tobacco education campaign—Tips From Former Smokers (Tips). The Tips campaign profiles real people—not actors—who are living with serious long-term health effects from smoking and secondhand smoke exposure. You can also view a story and tips from a person living with HIV who quit smoking.
Visit betobaccofree.hhs.gov or call the Smoking Quitline: 877-44U-QUIT (877-448-7848) for more information on the many health benefits of quitting smoking. For help from your state quitline, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).