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Does 2nd Hand Smoke Cause Asthma

Common Questions About Smoking And Asthma

Effects of Smoking : How Does Smoking Cause Asthma?

1. Can smoking affect your asthma?

The simple answer is yes. Smoke can negatively impact anyone, but especially those who deal with asthma. Asthma attacks are more common in those who smoke because of the irritation and damage done to the airways and lungs. Cigarette smoke causes the airways to swell and fill with sticky mucus which is difficult to clean out because the smoke also damages the cilia in the lungs.

2. Can smoking suppress asthma?

Some evidence has shown that cigarette smoke can both heighten and suppress asthma. We need more research to gain better data about whether smoking can have any positive effects on asthmatics.

3. What does smoking do to asthma?

When you inhale smoke, it causes the lungs to produce more mucus and the airways to swell, becoming narrower and unable to bring in large amounts of air. This combination of increased mucus production and decreased breathing capacity is why many asthmatics who smoke cannot keep their asthma symptoms under control. In time, smoking will also damage the cilia meant to clean out the mucus in the lungs. This leads to more difficulty breathing and more serious asthma attacks.

4. Can smoking with asthma kill you?

5. Can cigarette smoke on clothes cause an asthma attack?

Yes, asthmatics are sensitive to even trace amounts of smoke left on clothing and these small amounts can trigger an attack.

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What Are The Other Health Effects Of Exposure To Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is associated with disease and premature death in nonsmoking adults and children . Exposure to secondhand smoke irritates the airways and has immediate harmful effects on a persons heart and blood vessels. It increases the risk of heart disease by about 25 to 30% . In the United States, secondhand smoke is estimated to cause nearly 34,000 heart disease deaths each year . Exposure to secondhand smoke also increases the risk of stroke by 20 to 30% .

Secondhand smoke exposure during pregnancy has been found to cause reduced fertility, pregnancy complications, and poor birth outcomes, including impaired lung development, low birth weight, and preterm delivery .

Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, and more severe asthma. Being exposed to secondhand smoke slows the growth of childrens lungs and can cause them to cough, wheeze, and feel breathless .

There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Even low levels of secondhand smoke can be harmful.

How Is Smoking Related To Asthma

If you have asthma, an asthma attack can occur when something irritates your airways and triggers an attack. Your triggers might be different from other peoples triggers.3

Tobacco smoke is a common trigger for asthma. Tobacco smokeincluding secondhand smokeis unhealthy for everyone, especially people with asthma.3,6 Secondhand smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles that includes:4,5

  • Smoke from burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, or pipes
  • Smoke that has been exhaled by someone who smokes

Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and about 70 that can cause cancer.6

If you have asthma, its important that you avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.3

If you are among the 21% of U.S. adults who have asthma and smoke, get help to quit smoking talk to your doctor about treatments that can help you, or call . 7

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Are There Any Laws To Protect Against Second

It is against the law to smoke or vape:

  • In a motor vehicle with anyone under the age of 16 years. Most cars are airtight and the cigarette smoke has no place to escape. Opening a window can force the smoke to be blown directly back at the people in the car
  • On school property at any time
  • Inside or within 6 meters of a doorway, window or air intake of a public building or workplace. Work vehicles are considered workplaces and are to be smoke and vape-free

Your community may have additional rules that make parks, playgrounds and other public places smoke and vape-free.

How Can Passive Smoking Harm My Unborn Baby

Avoiding Tobacco Smoke Is a Key Part of Asthma Prevention

When someone smokes while pregnant, dangerous chemicals from the cigarette are passed through the bloodstream direct to the baby in the womb.

Smoking or breathing in second-hand smoke during pregnancy can cause serious harm to your baby. It can:

  • slow down the development of your childs lungs
  • increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight – children born prematurely or with a low birth weight are more likely to develop a lung condition
  • result in your childs lungs becoming sensitive to air pollution when theyre older.

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Keep Your Home Smoke Free

Tobacco smoke can stay in the room for up to two and a half hours. It sticks to clothes and soft furnishings. Every time you smoke another cigarette you top up the pollutants already in the room.

Smoking in only one room, or opening doors and windows wont help enough to make a difference.

If you need to ask people to smoke outside, make sure theyre well away from the door, so smoke doesn’t get blown back indoors.

Even if people do go outside to smoke, they’ll bring smoke particles back in on their clothes. So ideally, youd have no smoking anywhere in or around your home.

Can Smoking Harm My Child

Secondhand smoke harms children with asthma even more than adults.

When a child is exposed to tobacco smoke, their lungs become irritated and produce more mucus than normal. Since children’s airways are smaller, the side effects of secondhand smoke affect them faster and can also affect lung function in later life.

Children of parents who smoke are also more likely to develop lung and sinus infections. These infections can make asthma symptoms worse and more difficult to control.

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Pathogenesis Of Smoke Exposure

The developing fetus is largely dependent on the mother for protection against oxidants. Because cigarette smoke is high in oxidants, it drastically depletes the mothers plasma and tissue antioxidants . Furthermore, nicotine exposure results in a decrease in the activity of antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase , catalase, and vitamins C and E . This imbalance of oxidants and antioxidants due to maternal smoke exposure is one of the most important causes of respiratory pathology in childhood illness. If not addressed earlier, it is maintained long after nicotine withdrawal and becomes worse with age .

Fetal exposure to nicotine has been shown to have many effects on lung structures and lung metabolism . In particular, prenatal tobacco exposure is known to alter airway structure: in a study of 32 infants that died of sudden infant death syndrome , the distance between alveolar attachments in the intraparenchymal airways was larger in children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy than in the 8 children whose mothers did not smoke, which suggests that airways may have been narrower in the children exposed to maternal smoking, . Prenatal airway growth is a key predictor of adult lung function. It was investigated that a poor airway function measured shortly after birth in 123 infants predicted airflow obstruction in early adulthood . The impairment of prenatal airway growth may be related to exposure to maternal cigarette smoke in utero.

How Does Secondhand Smoke Affect Your Asthma

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Both first and secondhand smoke can have a major negative impact on your asthma. Lets take a closer look at what smoke inhalation does to your lungs.

1. Secondhand smoke acts as an asthma trigger.

Smoke is a common trigger for people with asthma. Cigarette smoke specifically is especially problematic because of the added chemical and toxins found in cigarettes.

2. It causes short-term illnesses.

Continuous exposure to an asthma trigger can cause illnesses like pneumonia, bronchitis, etc. This is because your lungs are unable to recover from constant exposure to irritants.

3. Smoke can cause long-term health issues.

The toxins and carcinogens found in cigarettes are widely known to affect a persons long term health. COPD, emphysema, and lung cancer are all possible effects of cigarette use. However, exposure to secondhand smoke can result in the same long-term effects.

4. Smoke could prevent your lungs from healing.

A person with asthma, unfortunately, experiences lung problems regularly. Secondhand exposure does nothing to help the lungs recover and improve. Rather, it does the opposite by putting more irritants into the lungs that they have to work harder to expel.

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Why Is Tobacco Smoke So Harmful

When a person inhales tobacco smoke, irritating substances settle in the moist lining of the airways and can set off asthma episodes. Often, the lungs of people with asthma who smoke are in a constant state of poor asthma control. These people often have ongoing asthma symptoms. Heres how tobacco smoke harms your and other peoples lungs:

  • Tobacco smoke damages tiny hair-like projections in the airways called “cilia.” Normally, cilia sweep dust and mucus out of the airways. Cigarette smoke damages cilia so theyre unable to work.
  • The smoke also causes the lungs to make more mucus than normal. As a result, when cilia don’t work, mucus and other irritating substances build up in the airways.
  • Tobacco smoke contains many cancer-causing substances . These substances deposit in the lungs and can cause lung diseases such as lung cancer and emphysema.

Health Effects Of Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer.1,2,3,4

Since the 1964 Surgeon Generals Report, 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers died because they breathed secondhand smoke.1

There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome .1,4
  • Smoking during pregnancy results in more than 1,000 infant deaths annually.4
  • Some of the health conditions caused by secondhand smoke in adults include coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.1,4

Health Consequences Causally Linked to Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

Note:The condition in red is a new disease causally linked to secondhand smoke in the 2014 Surgeon Generals Report4

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Maternal Smoking And Its Effects

Smoking during pregnancy accounts for a sizable number of infant deaths in the United States . It has been long known that maternal smoking causes increased risk of adverse outcomes in the infant. Smoking during pregnancy increases the neonatal health care costs . Maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of having a child with congenital digital anomaly . Children with tobacco smoke exposure have also an increased risk of low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome , asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, middle ear infection, and other diseases .

How Does Tobacco Smoke Trigger Asthma


When a person inhales tobacco smoke, irritating substances settle in the moist lining of the airways. These substances can cause an attack in a person who has asthma.

In addition, tobacco smoke damages tiny hair-like structures in the airways called cilia. Normally, cilia sweep dust and mucus out of the airways. Tobacco smoke damages cilia so they are unable to work, allowing dust and mucus to accumulate in the airways.

Smoke also causes the lungs to make more mucus than normal. As a result, even more mucus can build up in the airways, triggering an attack.

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What Are The Effects Of Secondhand Smoke

Children, the elderly, and people with asthma are significantly affected by secondhand smoke. Inhaling tobacco smoke weakens the hair-like cilia in the lungs. Cilia act to rid your airways of mucus and other particles.

Secondhand smoke also encourages mucus production and irritates your airways. If you have asthma or allergies, this can mean worsening symptoms and a more challenging time breathing. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that since 1964, 2.5 million people have died due to secondhand smoke exposure.

Many U.S. cities have laws banning smoking in workplaces, restaurants, and public areas. Smoke-free laws are a good start towards protecting people but are far from enough. There are steps you can take to safeguard your family from this health hazard.

The Effects Of Secondhand Smoke On Pets

Most people are well-educated about the dangers of smoking. They understand the potential health risks involved every time they light up. They likely realize that these risks extend to nearby people who inhale their secondhand smoke. But do they know that secondhand smoke can similarly affect their cats, dogs, and birds? Do they understand that pets can suffer the negative health consequence of tobacco products by simply breathing the air circulating around their owners as they puff away?

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What About The Vape From E

The vape from e-cigarettes is considered less harmful than tobacco smoke both for someone vaping, and someone breathing in the vape. It has lower levels of toxins and is less polluting in the home.

But in our Annual Asthma Survey 14% of people with asthma told us that vaping, or being exposed to second-hand vape, triggered their asthma symptoms.

Until there is more evidence on the short- and long-term effects of vaping, and breathing in vape when you have asthma, consider avoiding vaping at home, in your car, or around your children.

You can read more about using e-cigarettes as a stop smoking treatment here.

The Dangers Of Secondhand Smoke

Second hand smoke, Asthma and how it effects children

Secondhand smoke is a well-known asthma trigger. If you smoke, consider quitting, especially if your child has asthma. Secondhand smoke can harm the lungs, cause long-term breathing problems, and make existing breathing problems worse.

Kids with asthma who live in households with smokers:

  • may have flare-ups more often
  • are more likely to have to go the emergency room with severe asthma flare-ups
  • are more likely to miss school because of their asthma
  • must take more asthma medicine
  • have asthma that’s harder to control, even with medicine

Even kids who don’t have asthma are at risk of problems if their parents smoke. These kids are more likely to get upper respiratory infections, middle ear infections, and even pneumonia. Being exposed to smoke from 10 cigarettes per day may put kids at risk of developing asthma, even if they’ve never had any breathing problems before.

Cigarette smoke can also get absorbed into upholstery, clothing, and carpeting, leaving carcinogens that can’t be washed away with soap and water. Kids who touch, mouth, play on, or breathe near contaminated surfaces may develop breathing problems from this kind of “thirdhand” smoke.

And here’s the best reason of all to quit smoking: Children whose parents smoke are more likely to smoke when they get older.

You don’t have to quit on your own. Talk to your doctor about possible strategies from support groups to medication. If you do continue smoking, don’t smoke in the house or car.

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Exposure To Smoke Outside The Home

Even if no one in your household smokes, kids will still be around secondhand smoke at times. Try to help them avoid it as much as possible.

If your child has asthma, let friends, relatives, and caregivers know that tobacco smoke may cause an asthma flare-up. To protect your child from having to breathe in smoke:

  • Donât allow guests to smoke in your house or car.
  • Avoid smoky restaurants and parties. Choosing the nonsmoking section is not enough protection.
  • Ask friends and relatives not to smoke around your child.
  • Choose caregivers who donât smoke or, if they do, ask them not to smoke around your child.
  • Encourage family members who smoke to quit.

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Is It Safe To Vape While Pregnant

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your unborn child. Some pregnant people may choose vaping to quit smoking. While vaping is thought to be around 95% less harmful to health than regular cigarettes, more research is needed into the impact of vaping during pregnancy. Because of this, some health care professionals advise pregnant people to use nicotine replacement therapy instead.

However, if vaping is the only way for you to quit smoking, it is much better for both you and your baby to vape than to smoke tobacco during pregnancy.

If you need help to stop smoking, nicotine replacement therapy using patches, gum or an inhalator is a good option. This is much safer than continuing to smoke.

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How Can I Quit Smoking

  • Discuss quitting with your doctor. Decide when youll quit and prepare for that day.
  • Discard all cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays.
  • Avoid all situations that may trigger your desire to smoke. For example, if you always have a cigarette after a meal, get up and take a walk instead or immediately begin to clear the table, etc.
  • Whenever you get the urge to smoke, take a deep breath and hold it for five to ten seconds.
  • Dont let others smoke in your home.
  • Keep finger foods, like carrot sticks, handy. Or, chew gum when you get the urge to smoke.
  • Stay active to keep your mind off smoking. Go for walks or read a book.
  • Join a support group or smoking cessation class.
  • Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement aids that can help when you are trying to quit.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/30/2021.


Is Passive Vaping Bad For My Baby Or Child

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Breathing in the vapour from someone elses e-cigarette is not as harmful as passive smoking. This is because the vapour does not contain most of the harmful chemicals present in cigarette smoke. There is no tar, and the chemicals that are present are at much lower levels.

However, many people find the vapour irritating and people with lung conditions can be sensitive to it, so you shouldnt vape around children.

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