Asthma and Smoking

smokeSmoking is unhealthy for everyone but it’s especially harmful for people with asthma. In fact, tobacco smoke is one of the most common asthma triggers.

When inhaled, tobacco smoke irritates the airways and causes the lungs to produce more mucus. Tobacco smoke also weakens tiny hairs called cilia that sweep away mucus and other irritants out of the airways; instead the mucus and irritants settle in the airways, causing asthma symptoms.

Check out CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers campaign.

Secondhand smoke – tobacco smoke inhaled involuntarily due to being around others who are smoking – is equally as harmful, particularly for children with still-developing lungs and airways. Children are more vulnerable to ear infections and respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Staying far away from cigarettes and cigarette smoke is the best way to avoid asthma flares. Healthcare professionals recommend:

  • If you have asthma and smoke, quit smoking.
  • If you have asthma, avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

Here’s CDC’s Guide for Quitting Smoking

Learn more from Allergy & Asthma Network’s “A Smoke-Free Life” series, including tips on quitting smoking, from allergist Pat Bass, MD:

Avoid Secondhand Smoke

  • Do not allow others to smoke in your home or car.
  • If your state allows smoking in public places, eat in restaurants that do not allow smoking. (“No smoking” sections do not protect you from secondhand smoke.]
  • Enroll your child in daycare centers and schools that do not allow tobacco smoking on school grounds. Teach children to stay away from secondhand smoke.

What About E-cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered devices that turn nicotine into a vapor, which is then inhaled. They are manufactured to mimic traditional cigarettes by producing a glowing light at the tip. Others come in shapes that look like cigars or pens. They are sold in a variety of candy and adult drink flavors, as well as a menthol flavor that appeals to traditional smokers. 

Numerous organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI), have raised health and safety concerns about e-cigarettes and are calling for stricter regulation.

E-cigarettes contain formaldehyde, which has been associated with triggering asthma symptoms, and additives that are known to cause respiratory illnesses. A recent National Jewish Health study reports the liquid used in e-cigarettes has been linked to an increased risk of respiratory viral infections