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.

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. 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.

Staying far away from cigarettes and cigarette smoke is the best way to avoid asthma flares.

Healthcare professionals recommend:

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

How can I 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.
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.

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.




respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)


alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency




sleep apnea




influenza, infections and viruses


Vocal cord dysfunction