Most researchers would tell you that secondhand smoke is detrimental to the health of anyone exposed. However, it can be especially harmful to those who suffer from respiratory illnesses like asthma. Asthma is a condition that affects the respiratory system. It is a tightening of the bronchi in the lungs that makes breathing difficult. It is often triggered or worsened by substances found in the air like pollen, dust, smoke, etc. The CDC states that as of 2019, 1 in 13 people have asthma.
Secondhand smoke is a person’s exposure to someone else’s cigarette smoke. Cigarettes are well known to contain many toxins and carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). However, the smoke that escapes from cigarettes also contains those toxins and carcinogens. So, as smokers are exposing themselves to potential health problems, anyone around them is also being exposed to those risks.
According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, “Since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report, 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers [both with and without asthma] died because they breathed secondhand smoke.”
How does secondhand smoke affect your asthma?
Both first and secondhand smoke can have a major negative impact on your asthma. Let’s take a closer look at what smoke inhalation does to your lungs.
1. Secondhand smoke acts as an asthma trigger.
Smoke is a common trigger for people with asthma. Cigarette smoke specifically is especially problematic because of the added chemical and toxins found in cigarettes.
2. It causes short-term illnesses.
Continuous exposure to an asthma trigger (such as secondhand smoke) can cause illnesses like pneumonia, bronchitis, etc. This is because your lungs are unable to recover from constant exposure to irritants.
3. Smoke can cause long-term health issues.
The toxins and carcinogens found in cigarettes are widely known to affect a person’s long term health. COPD, emphysema, and lung cancer are all possible effects of cigarette use. However, exposure to secondhand smoke can result in the same long-term effects.
4. Smoke could prevent your lungs from healing.
A person with asthma, unfortunately, experiences lung problems regularly. Secondhand exposure does nothing to help the lungs recover and improve. Rather, it does the opposite by putting more irritants into the lungs that they have to work harder to expel.
How to Quit Smoking
Smoking is bad for everyone, but especially for those with asthma. If you aren’t sure how to quit smoking, see a medical professional and ask for help. Your health is important and should be your number one priority. Here are some ways you can take steps toward healthier lungs.
1. Set a goal.
Like any goal, set a reasonable date to accomplish your goal. Give yourself an incentive if you accomplish your goal. Write a list of steps to help you reach your goal.
2. Get accountability.
Choose someone who will hold you to your commitment and encourage you in your endeavor.
3. Remove all smoking products from your home.
If you don’t have easy access to smoking products, you are much less likely to smoke. Getting rid of cigarettes, lighters, ashtrays, etc. will go a long way helping to quit for good.
4. Communicate regularly with a medical professional
Close communication with your doctor is essential in getting the support you need to quit smoking. He or she can guide you to helpful resources and, if necessary, prescribe medication to help on your journey,
Common Questions About Smoking and Asthma
1. Can smoking affect your asthma?
The simple answer is yes. Smoke can negatively impact anyone, but especially those who deal with asthma. Asthma attacks are more common in those who smoke because of the irritation and damage done to the airways and lungs. Cigarette smoke causes the airways to swell and fill with sticky mucus which is difficult to clean out because the smoke also damages the cilia in the lungs.
2. Can smoking suppress asthma?
Some evidence has shown that cigarette smoke can both heighten and suppress asthma. We need more research to gain better data about whether smoking can have any positive effects on asthmatics.
3. What does smoking do to asthma?
When you inhale smoke, it causes the lungs to produce more mucus and the airways to swell, becoming narrower and unable to bring in large amounts of air. This combination of increased mucus production and decreased breathing capacity is why many asthmatics who smoke cannot keep their asthma symptoms under control. In time, smoking will also damage the cilia meant to clean out the mucus in the lungs. This leads to more difficulty breathing and more serious asthma attacks.
4. Can smoking with asthma kill you?
While statistics about smoking-related deaths amongst asthmatics are in short supply, it is no secret that smoking is detrimental for anyone with or without asthma. Smoking or breathing secondhand smoke can cause an asthma attack. Since asthma attacks can be serious and life-threatening, doctors recommend that anyone with asthma should avoid exposure to smoke.
5. Can cigarette smoke on clothes cause an asthma attack?
Yes, asthmatics are sensitive to even trace amounts of smoke left on clothing and these small amounts can trigger an attack.