How does smoking affect my asthma?


Cigarette smoke causes irritation of the airways in the lung, which can trigger asthma attacks. The irritation leads to inflammation, which counteracts the effect of asthma medications prescribed to reduce the inflammation of those same airways.

Dr. Joseph I. Miller, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Asthma causes irritation and inflammation of the airways which makes the airways more reactive. The inflamed airways are then more reactive to the asthma triggers—whether it is cold weather, mold, exercise or pet dander.

For children who have asthma, breathing secondhand smoke can trigger an attack. The attack can be severe enough to send a child to the hospital. In rare cases, an asthma attack is so severe that a child dies.

Secondhand smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles that includes:

  • Smoke from a burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe tip
  • Smoke that has been exhaled or breathed out by the person or people smoking
  • More than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer

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Smoking will add particles and inflammation to your lung which often worsens asthma and definitely worsens asthma symptoms.

Smoke in your lungs causes bronchospasms. Asthma is a bronchospasm type process, so if you continue to smoke and have asthma, what is going to happen is you are going to increase the incidents of bronchospasm which causes asthma exacerbation. Asthma is a problem breathing out and tobacco causes bronchospasm which affects the bronchioles.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Think of the smoke as a wrestler who puts your already-constricted airways in a chokehold. Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways. Your airways are more reactive and can sometimes constrict, making it difficult to breathe.

Studies have found that smoking can worsen your asthma, which means you could have more asthma attacks each day and more episodes of abnormal breathing. You may even have a higher risk of being hospitalized for your asthma. So if you have asthma, tap out and ask your doctor about quitting. You'll also want to avoid secondhand smoke, which can also irritate you're already sensitive airways.

Dr. Brian Gelbman, MD
Pulmonary Disease Specialist

Smoking is very harmful for asthma; those with chronic airway inflammation from asthma who smoke will experience more severe symptoms. Watch pulmonologist Brian Gelbman, MD, discuss how asthma patients who smoke are also at risk for developing COPD.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.