Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Smoking Cessation Health Center

Font Size

Vitamin C Isn't a Smoker's Salvation


How smoking causes damage to the arteries is unclear. What is known is that smoking increases the amount of "free radicals" in the blood, which occur naturally in everyone but are highly destructive. Free radicals can change or damage the lining of the walls of blood vessels. Antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin E are thought to help out by "mopping up" the free radicals in the blood and limiting the amount of damage they can cause. But smoking causes many other changes as well, making it hard for researchers to pinpoint a single reason behind smoking's harmful effects.

One expert who reviewed the study said smokers should not jump to the conclusion that taking vitamin C daily is of no use to them.

Balz Frei, PhD, director of the Linus Pauling Institute in Corvallis, Ore., says vitamin C has many beneficial effects beyond heart disease prevention that make it a wise choice as a daily supplement for people who smoke. He says smokers use up vitamin C at a higher rate than nonsmokers and therefore need about 35 mg more of the vitamin per day than those who do not smoke.

Frei's group published a study last year showing that daily supplements of vitamin C for one month led to improvements in blood vessels that had been damaged by smoking. He says the new study is at odds with the majority of other studies on the subject.

"I think there is a real effect, although there may be some exceptions. The overall evidence is very compelling," he tells WebMD.

Vital Information:

  • Contrary to previous findings, a new study shows that vitamin C does not protect the blood vessels from damage caused by smoking.
  • It is unclear exactly how smoking causes damage to the blood vessels, but it does increase the formation of free radicals in the blood, which occur in everyone but are very damaging.
  • Smokers have lower levels of vitamin C in their blood than nonsmokers, because they use it up at a faster rate, so taking a vitamin C supplement may be a good idea for its other beneficial effects, according to one expert.
1 | 2

Today on WebMD

hands breaking a cigarette
Is quitting cold turkey an effective method?
14 tips to get you through the first hard days.
smoking man
Surprising impacts of tobacco on the body.
cigarette smoke
What happens when you kick the habit?

Filtered cigarettes
an array of e cigarettes
human heart
Woman experiencing withdrawal symptoms

man smoking cigarette
no smoking sign
Woman ashing cigarette in ashtray
chain watch