Smoking and Asthma
Out of more than four thousand substances contained in cigarette smoke, hundreds are toxic to human lungs. When you inhale cigarette smoke, the toxic smoke substances settle in the moist lining of your airways. This triggers the cells that line the airways to produce mucus. Cigarette smoke also damages the cilia which help to clean the lungs. Once you damage your cilia, mucus accumulates, your airways clog and an asthma episode is likely to follow.
Smoking makes your asthma worse, leading to the risk of contracting bronchitis and emphysema.
What is Second-Hand Smoking?
Well-known as passive or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), second-hand smoke is cigarette smoke that you inhale when you are around people who are smoking. It includes smoke that they exhale and that a burning cigarette releases, known as side-stream smoke.
How Can Passive Smoking Affect an Asthmatic Person?
Passive smoking may be even more harmful than direct smoking. Smoke from the tip of a burning cigarette contains more poisonous substances, such as nicotine and tar, than the smoke inhaled by the smoker.
People living with smokers, including children, are more prone to develop asthma and other respiratory problems. Children are at the highest risk because they have fragile, less developed lungs. Exposure to passive smoke can cause reduced lung function and symptoms associated with asthma such as wheezing, increased mucus discharge, airway inflammation and coughing.
Additionally, children with asthma are overly sensitive to passive smoke and when exposed to it and are more likely to exhibit asthma symptoms. The probability of developing lung and sinus infections increases, which in turn makes the child’s asthma harder to control.1
Smoking and Asthma during Pregnancy
Apart from damaging the mother’s lungs, cigarette smoke contains chemicals such as nicotine. If a pregnant woman smokes, she passes the chemicals to the developing baby via the umbilical cord. These chemical substances affect the cells of a baby’s lungs, boosting the chance of a child developing respiratory problems, including asthma, later in life.
In addition, smoking during pregnancy has been known to increase the baby’s heart rate and lead to premature births, low birth weights, stillbirths, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and birth defects.
How Do You Reduce Your Exposure to Cigarette Smoke?
Smoking is addictive, so if you do not smoke, don’t start. Even one cigarette can trigger the addiction within your body2, so if the temptation to try it is presented ‘just say no’! If one of your close friends or family members smoke, help them to understand the risks and persuade them to quit.
Here are other ways to reduce exposure to cigarette smoke:
- Avoid smoky environments
- Ask guests or caregivers not to smoke around you or your kids
- Do not allow smoking in your car or house
Steps to Giving Up Smoking
If you are a smoker, you have a bigger challenge at hand. Here are three tips to help you kick the habit:
- Understand your addiction – Know the circumstances that make you want to light up a cigarette and determine what you can do to avoid such situations.
- Know why you want to stop – Write down the benefits of quitting and always look at them when tempted to light a cigarette.
- Stay determined – Think of yourself as a non-smoker, stay focused on quitting, and make use of the help and support available. From patches to pills, gum to even hypnosis, there are more resources than ever that are available to help you quit. Keep at it and find the method that’s right for you.
2“Inhaling From Just One Cigarette Can Lead To Nicotine Addiction: Kids Show Signs of Addiction Almost Immediately,” Science Daily, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070703171843.htm.