A Smoke-Free Life: How to Get START-ed



Pat_BassBy Pat Bass, MD 

The statistic is shocking: 21 percent of people with asthma smoke cigarettes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even though smoking is a well-known asthma trigger.

Further, secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for people with asthma – particularly children with still-developing airways. They are more vulnerable to getting sick with bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections.

Smoking kills more than 1,300 Americans per day. In addition to increasing risks of asthma flares and possibly developing asthma, it increases the risks of developing lung disease, heart disease and stroke.

Quitting is the single best thing you can do to improve your asthma and your overall health. It can significantly reduce your child’s risk of an asthma flare.

E-cigarettes are marketed as a way to quit smoking, but there’s no definitive evidence to support this claim. In fact, e-cigarettes contain substances that have been linked to respiratory illness, as well as pollutants that can be inhaled secondhand and worsen asthma. 

Here are helpful steps to “START” quitting:

S = Set a quit date.

This is not a day to cut back or think about quitting. This is the date you are going to become a nonsmoker. Setting a date is important – too far into the future and you may rationalize and change your mind; too soon and you will not have time to prepare emotionally and make a plan. Many choose a birthday or some other special day, but any day will do. Once you pick a day, write it down where you will prominently see it, as a reminder of your goal.

T = Tell your family, friends and coworkers you are quitting and ask for their support.

This will give you a group of people who will support you. Plus, publically declaring what you are going to do makes it harder to go back.

A = Anticipate problems and think about how you will handle them.

Consider the situations you think may pose the most trouble – especially those that may have affected you during previous attempts to quit. Many smokers have problems when around alcohol or other smokers, and during activities associated with stress. Try to avoid these situations and make a plan to deal with them if they are unavoidable.

You will likely need to develop new ways to deal with stress. Try to plan something enjoyable every day like meeting a friend for coffee. Stay well hydrated and drink lots of water as a distraction technique to relieve cravings.

R = Remove all your cigarettes from your home, work and car.

This includes anything related to smoking.

T = Talk with your doctor or other healthcare professional about quitting.

A healthcare professional can assess whether or not you need medication to help you quit, as well as provide you with their experience in helping other smokers “kick the habit.” Your doctor can provide support and resources such as individual, group, or telephone counseling, if needed.


Pat Bass, MD is Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. In addition to an active clinical practice, administrative duties and participation in medical education activities, Dr. Bass participates in research that focuses on how patients can better interact with and get more out of the healthcare system to better care for their medical condition. Dr. Bass is an author of a number of research articles focused on patient education and is the asthma expert for About.com.