Ten Things Every HIV-Positive Smoker Should Know

  1. Life expectancy is rising in people with HIV, but not if they smoke.1
  2. Tobacco and tobacco smoke contain nicotine, carbon monoxide, arsenic, formaldehyde, benzene, and other toxic substances.2 (Formaldehyde is an embalming agent and is known to cause cancer; benzene is found in emissions from burning coal and oil, and in motor vehicle exhaust.)
  3. In animal studies nicotine is as deadly as strychnine and three times more deadly than arsenic.3
  4. Feeling a strong urge to smoke first thing in the morning, after a meal, or when drinking alcohol probably means you're addicted to nicotine.4
  5. Nicotine addiction leads all preventable causes of death across the world,5 and more than 60% of deaths in people with HIV can be attributed to smoking.6
  6. Smokers with HIV can quit: An estimated one third of HIV-positive U.S. smokers have stopped.7
  7. Don't quit quitting! Many people must try to quit several times before they succeed.8
  8. Ten years after someone quits smoking, their risk of lung cancer drops by half.9
  9. Someone who quits smoking before age 40 cuts their risk of death from a smoking-related disease by 90%.9
  10. A study of 5472 people with HIV found that former smokers had significantly lower risk of death from any cause and lower risks of AIDS, major heart disease, cancer, and bacterial pneumonia than current smokers.10


  1. Helleberg M, May MT, Ingle SM, et al. Smoking and life expectancy among HIV-infected individuals on antiretroviral therapy in Europe and North America. AIDS. 2015;29:221-229.
  2. Calvo M, Laguno M, Martínez M, Martínez E. Effects of tobacco smoking on HIV-infected individuals. AIDS Rev. 2015;17:47-55.
  3. Polito JR. Nicotine addiction 101. WhyQuit.com.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Nicotine dependence. Causes.
  5. World Health Organization. WHO report on the global tobacco epidemic, 2013: enforcing bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Geneva, Switzerland. 2013.
  6. Helleberg M, Afzal S, Kronborg G, et al. Mortality attributable to smoking among HIV-1-infected individuals: a nationwide, population-based cohort study. Clin Infect Dis. 2013;56:727-734.
  7. Mdodo R, Frazier EL, Dube SR, et al. Cigarette smoking prevalence among adults with HIV compared with the general adult population in the United States. Ann Intern Med. 2015;162:335-344.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and tobacco use. Quitting smoking.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking and tobacco use. Tobacco-related mortality. 2014.
  10. Lifson AR, Neuhaus J, Arribas JR, et al. Smoking-related health risks among persons with HIV in the Strategies for Management of Antiretroviral Therapy Clinical Trial. Am J Public Health. 2010;100:1896-1903.