Last updated on 31/05/2021

We know asthma and smoking are a bad combination. Asthma involves a narrowing of the airways and smoking exacerbates it.  

Smoking is also a key risk factor for the four diseases that cause most of the deaths in Australia, heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and coronary obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).1 

This year’s World No Tobacco Day is urging you to #CommitToQuit. And here at Asthma Australia, we could not agree more. 

We’re on the right track with fewer and fewer people smoking in Australia – in fact, we now have one of the lowest rates in the world! 

However, according to the World Health Organisation, tobacco still causes 8 million deaths worldwide every year and this year it could be more.2 

They cited research that said smokers were more likely to develop severe COVID-19 than non-smokers. This grim finding has prompted more people to want to give up the habit.  

Smoking and asthma

As well as the addictive nicotine, when burned – cigarettes create thousands of chemicals, which can be harmful.3 

When you breathe in the smoke, these substances can irritate the airways and worsen inflammation. Cigarette smoke is a well-recognised trigger for asthma, linked with more flare-ups. 4

As well as exacerbating asthma symptoms, it can also reduce the effectiveness of asthma preventer medications. 

And research over many years has recognised the negative impact of second-hand smoke, especially on children and babies. 

What happens when you quit smoking?

Every cigarette you smoke does damage, but with every cigarette you resist, you’re on the path to recovery. 

There are short-term and long-term impacts of quitting smoking. Within 20 minutes of ending your cigarette, your heart rate will fall. Another 12 hours on and your blood carbon monoxide levels will have stabilised.  

Depending on your level of smoking, between two and 12 weeks later your lung function and circulation will have improved and within 1-9 months smoking-related coughing and shortness of breath can reduce. 

What about vaping and asthma?

There remain significant gaps in the research about e-cigarettes which are devices that deliver an aerosol by heating a solution that users breathe in. Using an e-cigarette is commonly referred to as ‘vaping’. The liquid used in e-cigarettes may contain a range of toxic chemicals including those which add flavour and may contain nicotine.  

Under Australian laws, vaping products containing nicotine are considered therapeutic products and are only available with a prescription. 

Health regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, has recently closed submissions on a proposal to allow personal imports of nicotine-containing vaping products. 

But the doctors’ group, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 5 has submitted that Australia should require rigorous quality and safety standards.6 

Studies overseas have found links between vaping and chronic lung disease including asthma. It is a risk factor for lung disease in addition to smoking.7  

Other American research found Florida high school students who were exposed to second-hand e-cigarettes had more asthma symptoms.8 

How you can help yourself and others and quit smoking

Call the Quitline (13 QUIT or 13 7848) 

Talk with your doctor and pharmacist on how they can assist you in your journey to quit.  

Call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) and speak with an Asthma Educators who can start you on your way to living well with your asthma. 

Download Asthma Australia’s free asthma and smoking resource.