Can you smoke if you have asthma?

Smoking is unhealthy for everyone, but it is especially harmful for people with asthma. In fact, tobacco smoke is one of the most common asthma triggers.

Can smoking cause asthma symptoms?

When inhaled, tobacco smoke irritates the airways and causes the lungs to produce more mucus. Tobacco smoke also weakens tiny hairs called cilia. Cilia sweep away mucus and other irritants out of the airways. So, when cilia are weak mucus and irritants settle in the airways. This leads to asthma symptoms.

What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is tobacco smoke that is exhaled by smokers or is given off by burning tobacco and is inhaled by persons nearby. This occurs when you are around others who are smoking.

Can second hand smoke cause asthma symptoms?

Secondhand smoke is just as harmful as smoking. This is particularly true for children with still-developing lungs and airways. Children are more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia.


How can you avoid secondhand smoke?

  • Do not allow others to smoke in your home or car.
  • If your state allows smoking in public places, eat in restaurants that do not allow smoking. (“No smoking” sections do not protect you from secondhand smoke.]
  • Enroll your child in daycare centers and schools that do not allow tobacco smoking on school grounds. Teach children to stay away from secondhand smoke.

How can you avoid asthma attacks from smoke?

The best way to avoid asthma attacks from cigarettes is to stay far away from cigarettes and cigarette smoke.

  • If you have asthma and smoke, quit smoking.
  • If you have asthma, avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
Asthma and smoking, vaping infographic

Is vaping bad for asthma?

Vaping is the inhaling and exhaling of a vapor produced by electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”) or a similar device. Electronic cigarettes are smokeless and battery-operated devices. They are used to deliver nicotine with flavorings or other chemicals to the lungs. They are often sold in “fun flavors” that appeal to teens and youth.

Most devices resemble cigarettes. Others resemble pens, hookah tips, screwdrivers or memory sticks and have cartridges that are refillable. The liquid in the cartridges becomes an aerosol that is inhaled into the lungs.

Any product with “cigarette” in its name should be a red flag for anyone who has asthma or allergies.

One recent study showed that long-term use of e-cigarettes increases the risk of respiratory disease. This includes asthma, COPD and chronic bronchitis. The data showed the risk of developing a lung or respiratory disease was significantly linked to e-cigarette use. The risk was even stronger in people who smoked both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes.

Teens who use e-cigarettes are at higher risk of moving to traditional cigarettes according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. E-cigarettes are often marketed as an effective smoking cessation aid. Science and research do not support these claims.

Are e-cigarettes harmful to your lungs?

E-cigarettes contain nicotine which is a drug that acts as a stimulant. It is highly addictive and causes changes in brain chemistry. Nicotine is found in tobacco products which includes cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are also known to contain glycerin. Glycerin is an additive that can cause respiratory tract irritation. The propellant in e-cigarettes is a substance called propylene glycol. When heated and vaporized, it forms propylene oxide. This is a potential cancer-causing agent, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Recent e-cigarette studies have found cancer-causing agents such as acetaldehyde and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is known to irritate eyes and the throat. It has also been associated with triggering asthma symptoms.

Several studies also show that e-cigarettes produce pollutants in the air that can be inhaled second-hand.

Does JUULing affect asthma?

Like e-cigarettes, many studies show JUUL devices are dangerous. They may lead to an increased risk of respiratory diseases, including asthma, COPD and chronic bronchitis.

JUULing is like vaping and the terms are often used to mean the same thing. It has been reported some students secretly vape in school. The JUUL is popular because it’s shaped like a digital thumb drive and emits very little vapor or scent. This makes it difficult for teachers to monitor.

Can you improve your asthma by quitting smoking?

The statistic is shocking: 21 percent of people with asthma smoke cigarettes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even though smoking is a well-known asthma trigger.

Further, secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for people with asthma – particularly children with still-developing airways. They are more vulnerable to getting sick with bronchitis, pneumonia and ear infections.

Smoking kills more than 1,300 Americans per day. In addition to increasing risks of asthma flares and possibly developing asthma, it increases the risks of developing lung disease, heart disease and stroke.

Quitting is the single best thing you can do to improve your asthma and your overall health. It can significantly reduce your child’s risk of an asthma flare.

E-cigarettes are marketed as a way to quit smoking, but there’s no definitive evidence to support this claim. In fact, e-cigarettes contain substances that have been linked to respiratory illness, as well as pollutants that can be inhaled secondhand and worsen asthma.

Here are helpful steps to “START” quitting:

S = Set a quit date.

This is not a day to cut back or think about quitting. This is the date you are going to become a nonsmoker. Setting a date is important – too far into the future and you may rationalize and change your mind; too soon and you will not have time to prepare emotionally and make a plan. Many choose a birthday or some other special day, but any day will do. Once you pick a day, write it down where you will prominently see it, as a reminder of your goal.

T = Tell your family, friends and coworkers you are quitting and ask for their support.

This will give you a group of people who will support you. Plus, publically declaring what you are going to do makes it harder to go back.

A = Anticipate problems and think about how you will handle them.

Consider the situations you think may pose the most trouble – especially those that may have affected you during previous attempts to quit. Many smokers have problems when around alcohol or other smokers, and during activities associated with stress. Try to avoid these situations and make a plan to deal with them if they are unavoidable.

Image of calendar with quit smoking date highlighted and a broken cigarette


You will likely need to develop new ways to deal with stress. Try to plan something enjoyable every day like meeting a friend for coffee. Stay well hydrated and drink lots of water as a distraction technique to relieve cravings.

R = Remove all your cigarettes from your home, work and car.

This includes anything related to smoking.

T = Talk with your doctor or other healthcare professional about quitting.

A healthcare professional can assess whether or not you need medication to help you quit, as well as provide you with their experience in helping other smokers “kick the habit.” Your doctor can provide support and resources such as individual, group, or telephone counseling, if needed.

“Helpful tips to START quitting” is courtesy of Pat Bass, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Desktop computer, table, and smart phone mocks up showing the Learning Pathways intro page on the screen.

Quick 3-5 minute videos on asthma, allergies, and related conditions.

Are there other conditions that may look like asthma or complicate asthma?

There are other types of respiratory conditions that are different than asthma.  The symptoms, diagnosis and treatment can vary depending upon the condition. Here are some of them.