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The Stats on Smoking and Asthma

I’ve never smoked, and of course, I have no plans to. However, if you smoke and have asthma, you’re certainly not alone.

It’s not easy to quit smoking

As much as “well, quit!” can roll easily off the tongues of non-smokers—come on, it’s not like you haven’t considered it—we all are aware that it is not as easily done as it is said to quit any addiction. I mean, even scale it back to trying to check your smartphone less frequently—that is a habit, a compulsion even, and there’s not a biological reason for the addiction like there is with smoking cigarettes.

So, this isn’t a lecture for smokers: you already know what those labels on the cigarette packages say, and you already know it’s bad for your asthma, and your lungs in general.

Smoking is common, even with asthma

As frustrating as the quitting process might be, or as annoying as the people around you might be regarding your smoking habit, here’s the thing: if you smoke and have asthma, you’re not the only one. By far.

Teens with asthma are more likely to smoke per one study, and they’re more likely to start younger

Yup, you read that right. Not only do teens with asthma know smoking is bad for their asthma control, but it also is not uncommon for kids to start smoking before age 11–seven years or more before they are legally allowed to smoke.1 Like with many adults, knowing the risks is not really enough of a deterrent: 22% of kids with asthma smoked in the study of 3300 teens, where only 12% of non-asthmatic teens smoked cigarettes1. The study also notes that kids and teens who vape (use e-cigarettes) are ten times more likely to smoke later on—vaping is like the “gateway drug”.1 Vaping is, per Asthma UK, safer but still not risk-free.4

It’s not just teens. 21% of people with asthma smoke, compared to 17% of people without asthma2

Those stats are pretty fitting compared to the statistics about teens with asthma smoking.

Smokers with asthma are 60% more likely to require a visit to the emergency department than non-smokers

This indicates uncontrolled asthma, which could be considered to be linked to tobacco use.3

Second-hand smoke is almost or just as harmful as smoking first-hand (yourself)

Children who live in houses with people who smoke are more likely to develop asthma, as well as have uncontrolled asthma from exposure to cigarette smoke.5 Prenatal (before birth) and postnatal passive (second-hand) smoke exposure increased risk of wheezing in children by at least 20% (and perhaps 70%)6

How has smoking affected you and your asthma?

The risks of smoking are now common knowledge—but the prevalence of cigarette smoking are fairly surprising, despite that societally, we are well aware of the risks. As a patient, this means to me that we need to do better at targeting asthmatics for inclusion in smoking cessation support programs, as it will ultimately assist in achieving positive long-term results and asthma control.

Do you have asthma and smoke? Or are you regularly exposed to secondhand smoke—or feel your development of asthma may be linked to exposure to tobacco smoke? How do you feel this impacts your asthma? Let’s discuss in the comments!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Pesce NL. Teens with asthma are almost twice as likely to smoke — study. NY Daily News. Published November 11, 2016. Accessed January 14, 2017.
  2. Percentage of People with Asthma who Smoke. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published January 31, 2013. Accessed January 14, 2017.
  3. Off-Campus Access to Subscription Digital Resources. Libproxy Access Authentication. Accessed January 14, 2017.
  4. Smoking and second-hand smoke. Asthma UK. Accessed January 14, 2017.
  5. Environmental Tobacco Smoke Exposure in Children Aged 3‒19 Years With and Without Asthma in the United States, 1999‒2010. NCHS Data Brief .
  6. Prenatal and Passive Smoke Exposure and Incidence of Asthma and Wheeze: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Prenatal and Passive Smoke Exposure and Incidence of Asthma and Wheeze: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis | Review Articles | Pediatrics. Accessed January 14, 2017.


  • Kathryn Sloat
    3 years ago

    My ex-boyfriend smoked cigarettes, and I had terrible trouble breathing when I was around him. He tried to quit many times during the two years we were together, and the last time he relapsed, I had to break up with him. It was terrible but I was so tired of being sick all the time. A lot of people smoke in the city where I live, and I’m starting to think I won’t be able to date again because of this. Not sure how to deal with it – it’s not like you can make anyone quit, and my last boyfriend never seemed to understand why this was such a big deal to me, so I’m pretty hesitant to try again.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    3 years ago

    Hi Kathryn – and we hear you. Second hand smoke can be a genuine issue for people with asthma and sensitive airways. My thought would be to somehow try to meet someone (who you enjoy being with) who is a non-smoker.
    Good luck!
    Leon (site moderator)

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