Why Asthma Patients Should Quit Smoking

smoking and asthma

According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 1.25 billion smokers worldwide, with around 2/3rd of the population living in developing countries. Asthma affects around 300 million people worldwide and a significant fraction of asthma patients are smokers. Moreover, the prevalence of smoking among people with asthma is similar to that of the general population, which accounts for around 20%[1]. It is known that smoking can increase the risk of asthma and its associated health problems, however, the effects of smoking on asthma is more severe. Here we will be shedding light on the ill-effects of smoking and why quitting smoking is good for asthma patients.

Is it safe to smoke if you have asthma?

Several research studies[2] have proved that as compared to non-smokers, smokers with asthma have:

– Increased severity of the symptoms (chest tightness, chronic cough, and sputum production)

– Poor control over the symptoms of asthma

– Heightened inflammation of the airways

– Impairment of the lung function

– Insensitivity to asthma medicines such as oral and inhaled corticosteroids

– Increased visits to healthcare centers and hospitalization

– High risk of asthma-related morbidity and mortality

Hence, it is not safe to smoke if you have asthma as it can worsen the symptoms and increase your risk of asthma-related health complications.

Moreover, secondhand smoke has similar effects on the quality of life, lung function, and use of medication as active smoking. In kids with asthma, secondhand smoke increases the risk of wheezing, coughing and asthma attacks.

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Smoking Facts: Myths about Cigarettes

Cigarettes are very harmful, not just for the damage that tobacco causes, but also due to the addictive nature of nicotine. Despite awareness about the risks of smoking tobacco, there are many misconceptions that still prevail. Here are some of the most common myths about cigarettes which you should NOT fall prey to when planning to quit smoking.

Low-tar cigarettes are safe to smoke

Although low-tar cigarettes cause slightly less damage as compared to smoking cigarettes, the effects have been proven to be minimal as compared to quitting completely. Moreover, low-tar cigarettes do less damage as long as you smoke less which means if you smoke quite often the risk remains the same. Also, smokers end up smoking more as they feel that low-tar cigarettes are less harmful which further increases the risk of health complications including asthma[3]. 

Rolling your own tobacco is safer

A study conducted in New Zealand[4] that studied regular smokers with smokers who rolled their own cigarettes found:

  • There was no change in the smoking habits of smokers that switched to rolling their own cigarettes
  • Smokers who roll their own cigarettes inhale more smoke per cigarette
  • Even with filters, there is no apparent reduction in the amount of harm they cause
  • The levels of carbon monoxide in roll-your-own cigarettes were similar to that of packaged cigarettes

Another interesting fact is that using a smoking pipe is no less harmful than roll-your-own cigarettes as both forms of smoking tobacco have the same health risks as smoking with packaged tobacco.

Smoking fewer cigarettes is less harmful

Even though this makes logical sense but research disagrees. In a massive conducted in Norway, over 42,000 smokers were studied over the course of 32 years. The study concluded that the risk of smokers who smoked 1-4 cigarettes a day were considerably higher than non-smokers and smokers who had quit[5]. So, while smoking 20 cigarettes a day is more harmful than smoking five, the overall difference compared to non-smokers is negligent. Smoking even a single cigarette a day increases the risk considerably for lung disorders, cancers, and cardiovascular diseases.

Menthols and lights are less harmful

Studies have proven time and again that changing cigarette designs or flavor does not reduce the risk of smoking tobacco[5]. The only effective way to reduce the risk of smoking is to quit altogether. E-cigarettes are said to be comparatively safer than cigarette smoking for a short period of time. However, not much research is done on the use of e-cigarettes for smokers with asthma and its effect on overall health.

Effects of smoking cessation for asthma patients

The fact that smoking has harmful effects on the overall health calls for the need to quit smoking, even in people with mild asthma. However, many smokers with asthma do not believe that they are at a risk personally due to smoking. But in reality, smoking cessation is associated with:

-Improved lung function

-Improvement in the symptoms

-Better control over the condition

-Significant improvement in the quality of life

-Decreased hyperreactivity

-Reduction in their usage of medications

However, the symptoms of asthma, especially cough, may worsen during the first week of smoking cessation, but it improves over time. This can lead to a temporary increase in the use of medications to control asthma. Also, once the inflammation due to smoking clears up, there is an improvement in the breathing and also better control of the condition with medicines.

**Consult India’s best doctors here**

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

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1. Perret JL, Bonevski B, McDonald CF, Abramson MJ. Smoking cessation strategies for patients with asthma: improving patient outcomes. J Asthma Allergy. 2016 Jun 24;9:117-28.

2. Chatkin JM, Dullius CR. The management of asthmatic smokers. Asthma Res Pract. 2016 Jun 20;2:10. eCollection 2016.

3. WHO. A Guide For Tobacco Users [Internet]. WHO; 2014 [cited 8 August 2018]. 

4. Laugesen M, Epton M, Frampton C, Glover M, Lea R. Hand-rolled cigarette smoking patterns compared with factory-made cigarette smoking in New Zealand men. BMC Public Health. 2009;9(1).

5. Bjartveit K. Health consequences of smoking 1-4 cigarettes per day. Tobacco Control. 2005;14(5):315-320.

6. Thomson NC, Chaudhuri R, Livingston E. Asthma and cigarette smoking. Eur Respir J. 2004 Nov;24(5):822-33.

7. Sturm JJ, Yeatts K, Loomis D. Effects of tobacco smoke exposure on asthma prevalence and medical care use in North Carolina middle school children. Am J Public Health. 2004 Feb;94(2):308-13.

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