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The Health Effects of Smoking with Asthma

Living with a chronic lung disease like asthma makes your lungs more sensitive than people without asthma. However, about 17 percent of adults with asthma in the U.S. smoke, compared to 13.7 percent without asthma, even though cigarette smoke is known to trigger asthma attacks.1

Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. Cigarette smoke irritates the lungs, causing redness, swelling and more mucus. Your lungs have a natural defense to keep dirt and germs out. Cigarette smoke destroys lung tissue and breaks down these defenses. This puts people with asthma in a tricky spot, because those changes to the lungs cause symptoms and asthma episodes. Also, frequent asthma attacks can cause changes to the lungs over time and lead to more severe disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, or asthma-COPD overlap. Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer.

Protect Your Lungs

Quitting smoking reduces your risk for asthma symptoms, and acquiring a new lung disease like lung cancer, COPD or asthma-COPD overlap syndrome. If you smoke, make a plan to quit. The American Lung Association has many resources that can help.

  • Lung HelpLine
    Staffed by respiratory therapists and certified tobacco treatment specialists, the Lung HelpLine is available to answer any question – whether you're looking to start a quit smoking attempt, want to learn more about Freedom From Smoking Plus, Group Clinics or The Guide to Help You Quit Smoking, or want telephone counseling from an expert over the course of your journey to quit smoking. Call 1-800-LUNGUSA to learn more.
  • Online Support Community
    Chat and connect with other quitters who understand what you are going through on our Inspire.com online community, Quit Now: Freedom From Smoking®.
  • Freedom From Smoking® 
    The Freedom From Smoking program has helped hundreds of thousands of people quit smoking since its first release in 1981. Learn more about the program and how it can help you, too!

Also, avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible, including asking people not to smoke near you. Secondhand smoke can cause asthma symptoms and affect other lung diseases too. As much as possible, try to avoid social activities that will expose you to secondhand smoke. Get expert advice on how to stop smoking.

  • Sources
    1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 2017. Analysis performed by the American Lung Association Epidemiology and Statistics Unit using SPSS software.

    Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed April 29, 2019.

    Page Last Updated: April 29, 2019

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