Smoking and asthma
Smoking and Asthma Don't Go Together
You do not have to be a smoker for smoking to cause harm. Exposure to someone else's smoking (called secondhand smoke) is a trigger for asthma attacks in children and adults.
Smoking can weaken lung function. When you have asthma and you smoke, your lungs will weaken more rapidly. Smoking around children with asthma will weaken their lung function, too.
If you Smoke
If you smoke, ask your health care provider to help you quit. There are many ways to quit smoking. List the reasons why you want to quit. Then set a quit date. Many people need to try quitting more than once. Keep trying if you do not succeed at first.
Ask your provider about:
You probably know by now that smoking damages your lungs, raising your risk for bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer. And, you're probably well aware that lighting up also puts you at risk for many different types of cancers, as well as eye disease like cataracts and premature wrinkles, you know why you shouldn't smoke, it's just the quitting part you can't seem to get past. Let's talk about some helpful tips to help you quit smoking, for good this time. It's a familiar story, one that plays out over and over again among smokers. You vow to quit, and you have every intention of doing it, and then the cravings hit. And you can't think about anything but having a cigarette. You get irritable, and you start putting on weight. You think, Just one cigarette wouldn't hurt, would it? And then, before you know it, you're smoking again. Most smokers have tried to quit, and failed, several times. Even if you've failed before, you can still succeed at quitting. Many people have. You just need to find the technique that works for you. So, here are a few tips that can help. First, set a quit date. Write it down on your calendar and tell a few friends, so you'll be too embarrassed to back out. Before your quit date, throw out every cigarette in your house, car, and office. Also toss every ashtray, lighter, and anything else you need to smoke. Wash your clothes and clean your furniture so you won't have that smoky smell hanging around your house. Next, call your doctor. Ask about smoking cessation programs in your area. Also learn about tools that can help you quit, like medicines that reduce the urge to smoke, and nicotine replacement gums, lozenges, patches, and sprays. And then, plan what you'll do instead of smoking. If you smoke with your morning cup of coffee, drink tea or go for a walk instead. If you need a cigarette to keep your mouth busy, try chewing sugarless gum or nibble on a carrot stick. Stick to places where smoking isn't allowed, like smoke-free restaurants. And finally, reward yourself for not smoking. Put all that money that you would have spent on cigarettes into a jar. And once you've collected enough money, use it to take a trip or buy something you've wanted for a long time. Don't get discouraged. Quitting smoking isn't easy. If it were, everyone would have done it by now. Be persistent, reward yourself for the progress you've made, and keep at it until you finally conquer the urge to smoke.
Secondhand Smoke and Children
Children who are around others who smoke are much more likely to:
- Need emergency room care more often
- Miss school more often
- Have asthma that is harder to control
- Have more colds
- Begin smoking themselves
No one should smoke in your house. This includes you and your visitors.
Smokers should smoke outside and wear a coat. The coat will keep smoke particles from sticking to their clothes. They should leave the coat outside or put it somewhere away from a child with asthma.
Ask people who work at your child's daycare, school, and anyone else who takes care of your child if they smoke. If they do, make sure they smoke away from your child.
Stay away from restaurants and bars that allow smoking. Or ask for a table as far away from smokers as possible.
When you travel, do not stay in rooms that allow smoking.
Secondhand Smoke and Adults
Secondhand smoke will also cause more asthma attacks and make allergies worse in adults.
If there are smokers at your workplace, ask someone about policies regarding if and where smoking is allowed. To help with secondhand smoke at work:
- Make sure there are proper containers for smokers to throw away their cigarette butts and matches.
- Ask coworkers who smoke to keep their coats away from work areas.
- Use a fan and keep windows open, if possible.
Balmes JR, Holm SM. Indoor and outdoor air pollution. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 102.
Gotts JE, Benowitz NL. Smoking hazards: cigarettes, vaping, marijuana. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 65.
Viswanathan RK, Busse WW. Management of asthma in adolescents and adults. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 52.
Woodruff PG, Bhakta NR, Ortega VE, Lambrecht BN, Fahy JV. Asthma: pathogenesis and phenotypes. In: Broaddus VC, Ernst JD, King TE, et al, eds. Murray and Nadel's Textbook of Respiratory Medicine. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 60.
Last reviewed on: 1/29/2022
Reviewed by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.