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Smoking and Asthma Don't Mix

One of the major triggers for asthma attacks is cigarette smoke. Cigarette, pipe or cigar smoke is especially harmful to people with asthma because it damages the cells in the lungs that make the protective coating lining the bronchial tubes. Without their first line of defense, the tubes become more irritated and inflamed, making an asthma attack more likely.

If you're a smoker with asthma, quitting smoking could save your life. Ask your health care provider to suggest the best method for you and stick with it.

Secondhand smoke

Secondhand smoke is smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. Breathing secondhand smoke may cause asthma or an attack in those who already have asthma, the American Lung Association (ALA) says.

The airway's response to secondhand smoke is different from that caused by other asthma triggers, such as dust mites or pet dander, because the other triggers are allergens not irritants.

In addition to triggering an asthma attack, these are other effects of secondhand cigarette smoke:

  • Increases the frequency of attacks and your need for asthma medication

  • Makes your airways more sensitive to other triggers, such as pollen

  • Reduces your lung function

  • Makes your airways slow to heal

Children and secondhand smoke

Children with asthma who live in homes with smokers have more wheezing, need more medications and make more trips to the emergency room than other youngsters with asthma.

Children are more vulnerable to the effects of secondhand smoke because they are still developing physically, and they have a faster respiratory rate than adults, according to the EPA. Children also are not able to control their home environment.

Pregnant women and smoke

Pregnant women should avoid secondhand smoke and kick the habit if they smoke. Tobacco chemicals in a mother's bloodstream damage a fetus' developing lungs. Infants born to smoking mothers may have low birth weight, reduced lung function, and/or trouble breathing and will be more susceptible to respiratory illnesses and asthma later in life.

Other tips

These are other suggestions from the ALA:

  • Don't allow guests to smoke in your house or around your children.

  • Don't allow smoking in your car.

  • Avoid bars and other smoky places.

  • Sit in nonsmoking areas at restaurants, or eat at smoke-free ones. If you know you are going to be in a smoky place, be sure to take along reliever medication.