Smoking and Respiratory Diseases
Facts about smoking and respiratory diseases
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diseases caused
by smoking kill more than 480,000 people in the U.S. each year. In fact, smoking is
directly responsible for almost 90% of lung cancer and COPD deaths. Even with antismoking
campaigns and health warnings, many people continue to smoke or start to smoke every
year. About 8% of kids under the age of 18 years are current tobacco users.
What are the risks associated with smoking?
Smokers not only increase their risk of lung disease, including lung cancer, but they
also increase their risk of other illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, and
oral (mouth) cancer. Risks from smoking, as they relate to lung disease, include the
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which includes:
Chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis, a long-term inflammation of the bronchi (large airways), is characterized
by coughing mucus over a long period.
Emphysema. Emphysema, a chronic lung condition that affects the air sacs in the lungs (alveoli),
is characterized by shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue, sleep and heart problems,
weight loss, and depression.
Lung cancer. Lung cancer, an abnormal, growth of cells that can result in lumps, masses, or tumors,
It may start in the lining of the bronchi (large airways), or other areas of the respiratory
system. Symptoms of lung cancer include a cough, chest pain, shortness of breath,
wheezing, recurring lung infections, bloody or rust-colored sputum, hoarseness, swelling
of the neck and face, pain and weakness in the shoulders, arms, or hands, and unexplained
fever. Smoking, including secondhand smoke, is the leading cause of lung cancer.
Other cancers. Not only does smoking increase the risk of lung and oral cancer, it also increases
the risk of other respiratory system cancers including cancer of the nose, sinuses,
voice box, and throat. And, smoking increases the risk of many other cancers of gastrointestinal,
urinary, and female reproductive systems.
The symptoms of smoking-related lung diseases may look like other lung conditions
or medical problems. If you have any symptoms of lung disease, see your health care
provider as soon as possible.
How dangerous is secondhand smoke?
Secondhand smoke is smoke that is exhaled by smokers and smoke emitted from the burning
end of a lit cigarette, cigar, or pipe. It causes more than 7,000 lung cancer deaths
each year in persons who do not smoke. It can also lead to lung conditions and heart
disease. Symptoms associated with exposure to secondhand smoke may include:
Irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat
Excessive mucus in the airways
Chest discomfort or pain
Children and infants exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to experience ear infections,
and asthma. They are also at a higher risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
than children and infants not exposed to secondhand smoke.
What are the benefits of quitting smoking?
People who quit smoking can actually reverse some of the lung damage. Other benefits
of quitting smoking may include the following:
Decreased risk for lung disease
Decreased risk for heart disease
Decreased risk for cancer
Reduced cigarette stains on fingers and teeth
Reduced occurrence of cough
Elimination of stale cigarettes smell on clothing and hair
Improved smell and taste
Saving money by not buying cigarettes
How does cigar smoking affect a person's risk of lung cancer and other types of cancer?
Cigars actually pose the same, if not greater, risk as cigarettes for oral cancer.
Although many cigar smokers do not inhale, their risk for oral, throat, and esophageal
cancers is the same as for cigarette smokers. Consider these facts from the CDC:
Compared with nonsmokers, cigar smokers who inhale are more likely to develop oral
cancer, esophageal cancer, and laryngeal cancer.
Cigar smokers who inhale and smoke five cigars a day may have a lung cancer risk similar
to one-pack-a-day cigarette smokers.
Secondhand smoke from cigars contains toxins and cancer-causing agents (carcinogens)
similar to secondhand cigarette smoke, but in higher concentrations.
How do people stop smoking?
Quitting smoking is very difficult. The American Academy of Otolaryngology and the
American Lung Association offer the following tips to help users quit using tobacco
Think about why you want to quit. Make a list of the reasons.
Set a quit date.
Try to pick a time when you have as little stress as possible.
Ask for support and encouragement from family, friends, and coworkers.
If you don't already exercise, start to increase your physical activity to improve
Try to get enough sleep each night and eat healthy. Along with exercise, healthy
sleeping and eating will help you cope with quitting.
Join a smoking cessation program, or support group. These programs are available in
most communities. And, there are also programs available by phone and Internet.
Medications to help you stop smoking
There are both prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help you stop
smoking. Talk with your health care provider about these medications and whether or
not any of them are right for you.
Nicotine patch. Nicotine is delivered through the skin.
Nicotine gum. Gum delivers nicotine quickly.
Nicotine lozenge. Lozenges are like hard candy.
Nicotine nasal spray. Nicotine is also delivered quickly.
Nicotine inhaler. Using an inhaler is like smoking cigarettes.
Zyban (bupropion). It helps to lessen cravings for nicotine.
Chantix (varenicline tartrate). It helps to lessen the discomfort of quitting and
the pleasure you get from smoking.