November 15, 2007


In support of the November 15 Great American Smokeout, the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery has released information that demonstrates how damage from cigarette smoking extends beyond the lungs, including its debilitating effects on hearing. The group has issued the information as part of an effort to compel Americans to stop smoking.

“Most people associate smoking with lung cancer, which is definitely a major reason to quit,” says Michael G. Stewart, MD, MPH professor and chairman of the department of Otorhinolaryngology at Weill Cornell Medical College. “But there are many other serious health consequences that people are not familiar with.”

Health complications from smoking affect the entire body. In addition to cancers of the lungs, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cardiovascular disease, smoking can cause slow, less noticeable damage to many other organs and body systems.

-Use of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, like snuff, is the leading cause of cancers of the head and neck. Left untreated, these cancers can result in partial or full removal of the lip, tongue, cheek and portions of the throat, including the larynx (voice box).

-Tobacco smoke hurts more than the smoker. Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause damage to a child’s developing organs, like the lungs and brain. Approximately 26 percent of adults in the US currently smoke cigarettes, and 50 to 67 percent of children under five live in homes with at least one adult smoker.

-Smoking can affect your hearing. It has long been known that active smoking produces a negative effect on middle ear function by chronically irritating the eustachian tube and the lining of the middle ear. Smokers tend to have more persistent and advanced ear disease than their non-smoking counterparts, as well as hearing problems.

-Smoking aggravates conditions like allergies and sinusitis. Because cigarette smoke irritates the lining of the nasal passages, many smokers suffer from constant facial pain and pressure of the sinuses, along with tiredness and irritability.

“We know that quitting is no easy task, but the overall health benefits are immeasurable,” says Dr. Stewart. “Doctors and other medical professionals are here to help you. You don’t have to go it alone.”

For more information on ENT-related smoking dangers, visit the Academy’s consumer website at

For more quitting resources, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at