Can Smoking Cause Asthma?

Can Smoking Cause Asthma?

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Active and passive smoking can lead to the onset of asthma and the worsening of symptoms. Quitting will help you to manage your symptoms and prevent asthma attacks.

It may seem pretty obvious that asthma is linked to smoking…

But what exactly is the link? 

Can smoking really lead to asthma and its associated symptoms?

From the initial history of smoking and the link to asthma, various areas of research and symptoms, read on to to find out how you can help to put down that addictive stick for good.


Many ancient cultures recommended inhaling smoke as a form of therapy. From burning certain plants to inhale for hallucinogenic properties to using tobacco smoke as a diagnostic and therapeutic agent in shamanistic healing rituals, it was fairly common practice.

You might also be surprised to learn that tobacco smoke was once often used as a helpful cure for asthma, as documented by novelist; Marcel Proust. He attempted to relieve his asthma with medicated cigarettes or combustible powders. 

Asthma cigarettes – which contained belladonna and stramonium – were recommended by nineteenth-century doctors as a convenient way of administering drugs directly to the lungs. 

They were advertised as a way to help the symptoms of:

However, thanks to the advancement of safer and more improved asthma medications and treatment, smoking is not something that physicians now recommend for asthma. Phew.

 There are, however, a few instances that highlight the mild bronchodilator effect of smoking Though it is largely agreed by healthcare professionals that the proven risks of smoking are far greater than this bronchodilator value.

Now, of course, back in the day, the effects of smoking in relation to how it made asthma worse, were unknown.

This still remains the case in today’s time, however, there has been an untold amount of research into this topic, meaning researchers have lots more information on this topic than they would have had in previous times.


So, what is research showing in today’s times?

Cigarette smoke is a toxic mixture containing around 4000 different chemicals including a range of carcinogens, irritants, and toxins.

Active Smoking

An article published by the European Respiratory Journal highlights that active cigarette smoking has been associated with the development of asthma in some people.

Furthermore, smoking was found to be heavily associated with the onset of asthma among nonatopic individuals and was highlighted as a risk factor for asthma among older adults

In one study that was undertaken over a decade and a half, it highlighted that in a large population with 16 years of follow-up, active smoking increased the incidence of adult-onset asthma. 

The same study also showed that an increased risk when it came to passive smoke exposure, among nonsmokers.

Which leads onto…

Passive Smoking

Passive smoking – also known as ‘second-hand smoking (SHS)’ – is a large problem when it comes to the exacerbation of asthma. 

It Contains:

  •  Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • And Cyanide

Passive smoking or SHS causes at least 12000 deaths each year in the UK alone.

Secondhand smoke exposure can also be responsible for triggering asthma exacerbations in children. 

Various studies have shown an increase in asthma symptoms, the use of health care, and deaths in children exposed to passive smoking.

So What Does Smoking Actually Do?

To put it bluntly, not a whole lot of good.

Experts now know that asthmatics have some form of underlying airway inflammation. This makes their airways hypersensitive upon exposure to certain asthma triggers.

This exposure can lead to an asthma attack.

Both medication and other resources, such as an asthma action plan and regular GP appointments can help to manage these attacks that asthma sufferers face. 

The inflammation that most asthma sufferers face is known as eosinophilic inflammation, and this is hugely responsive when it comes to corticosteroids.

In this case, most asthmatics respond very well to inhaled corticosteroids, such as fluticasone. This type of inhaler allows the asthma patient to control their condition.

The prevalent chemicals in cigarette smoke can aggravate the asthmatic airways, leading to neutrophilic inflammation alongside eosinophilic inflammation

Neutrophilic inflammation does not respond well to corticosteroids. 

In a study of sixty-seven asthmatic patients, the results highlighted that in addition to the eosinophilic airway inflammation observed in patients with asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), smoking also actuates neutrophilic airway inflammation. 

This concludes the prevalent relationship between smoking history, airway inflammation, and lung function in smoking asthmatics.

Essentially, smoking can make your lungs less responsive to asthma medication and treatment.

Because this is not treatable, the airway inflammation in asthma and COPD patients becomes more severe

This can then lead to scarring. 

Due to the fact that scarred tissue is thicker than it normally would be, this can cause chronic airway narrowing, also known as Airway Stenosis.

The airways can also become swollen and filled with sticky mucus. This also takes place during an asthma flare-up or attack.

This is why smoking can increase the number of asthma attacks which take place in a patient.

If you have already been diagnosed with asthma, the daily act of lighting up long-term can cause your asthma to get worse over time.

In addition to this, smoking is also known as an important causative factor for COPD. 

The combination of asthma and COPD is known as Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome.

Asthma is largely reversible, but when it comes to COPD?, the same can’t always be said. Furthermore, COPD worsens with age, but there are treatments that can help to slow it down…

The British Lung Foundation states that the most effective treatment for COPD is to stop smoking.

Tips to Help You Stop Smoking

Daily Changes

Quitting smoking can be an extremely difficult challenge. So before you attempt to put out the habit, try to keep a diary of any triggers you may have that make you feel the urge to smoke.

By writing down the situations, subject or instances that make you want to light up, it will help you to come up with coping mechanisms to avoid them.

Studies highlight shows that being in an environment that makes you think of smoking can trigger cravings. In this case, it might be looking at the bigger picture:

  • Does your routine make you want to smoke? 
  • Or is it something bigger, like your job, relationship or living situation?

Of course, every person and every situation is different and unique, but by altering either your routine or all around situation, 

this may help you avoid urges to smoke. 

Come Up With A List

Motivation is one of the key problems people experience when it comes to quitting smoking.

So, you may find that writing down a list of all the reasons for your recent desire to change your smoking habits, a pretty helpful tool.

  • Maybe you are hoping to save for a specific purchase or situation
  • Perhaps you want to feel healthier overall
  • It could also be that you want to improve your asthma symptoms

Whatever details your list may contain (and it doesn’t matter how big or how small), keep it somewhere where you will see it EVERY SINGLE DAY. Stick it to the fridge, keep it in your wallet or have it out on your desk.

Each time you get the urge to light up? 

Check out your list and remind yourself just why you shouldn’t.

Help and Support

Using treatments to help you stop smoking doubles your chances of successfully giving up smoking, and there’s a whole host of treatments available to help reduce your 

troublesome cravings.

A study from the American Journal of Epidemiology states that Nicotine replacement therapy including gum, patches, lozenges, nasal spray, and inhalers 

**increases the rate of quitting by 60%**

It’s important to remember that there are always people to help you quit smoking. 

From your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist, and other healthcare professionals, there is support and advice on offer to give you that initial helping hand, and ongoing guidance and motivation.

Always reach out and speak to your GP and make use of the NHS Stop Smoking Services in your fight against stopping smoking.