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Sudden Cessation of Smoking

What Is Asthma? 

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes episodes of difficulty in breathing. Asthma symptoms are caused primarily by chronic inflammation of the airways. This makes the airways of the patient with asthma highly sensitive to various trigger factors such as tobacco smoke.

When the airways inflammation is triggered by any type of trigger factors such as tobacco smoke, the airways swell and is filled with mucus. Muscles within the airways will contract which can lead to further narrowing of the airways and lead to frequent asthma attack. If asthma is poorly controlled death can occur.

How can Tobacco Smoke Lead to Uncontrolled Asthma?

Tobacco smoke is a powerful trigger of asthma symptoms. A patient with asthma can develop frequent severe asthmatic attack due to airway irritation caused by tobacco smoke.

Tobacco smoke including secondhand smoke, is one of the most common and powerful asthma triggers. Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke from a burning cigarette and smoke exhaled by a smoker.

How Can Tobacco Smoke Trigger an Asthmatic Attack? 

Tobacco smoke (and many more chemicals in cigarette smoke) can affect the airways in the following ways:

  1. When a person inhales tobacco smoke, irritating substances is deposited in the lining of the airways and can cause an asthmatic attack.
  1. Tobacco smoke also damages the tiny hair-like structures in the airways, so that they are unable to work and allowing the dust and mucus to accumulate in the airways. 
  1. Tobacco smoke also can cause the lungs to produce more mucus than normal and trigger an asthmatic
  1. Tobacco smoke also can damage the airways by destroying the lung tissue and make the airways less elastic and narrower by causing more inflammation in the airways.

What are the benefit for asthmatic patient to quit smoking abruptly? 

As tobacco smoke is a powerful trigger of asthma symptoms, by quitting smoking abruptly will remove the asthma trigger completely.This can reduce asthma attacks.

  • Patients with asthma who quit smoking will have less frequent asthmatic attacks
  • They will be more productive in their studies and works
  • Less emergency room visits and less likely to be admitted
  • They will have less chance of dying due to severe asthmatic attack
  • They will need to use much lower doses of steroid preventer medication to control their asthma
  • Children of parents who have managed to quit smoking will be more likely to have better asthma control and less likely to be admitted for severe asthma attack
  • These children will also be less likely to develop lung and sinus infections and these can further improve the asthma symptoms and control

What are the benefits of abrupt quitting on asthma during pregnancy?

  • In a pregnant smoker, the chemicals in the smoke will be passed to the developing baby through the umbilical cord and this will increase the baby’s risk of developing wheezing symptoms early in life.
  • By quitting smoking abruptly during pregnancy will reduce many smoking related problems, such as low-birth weight babies, premature births and the risk of fetal death and stillbirth.

Is there any benefit for non-asthmatic children if their parents managed to quit smoking abruptly? 

Children are more susceptible than adults to the effects of secondhand smoke because their lungs are still developing.

  • Children of mothers who managed to quit smoking during pregnancy will be less likely to have lung problems and less chance of developing
  • Young child who is non-asthmatic will have less risk of developing asthma-like symptoms in early childhood.
  • Children will have less risk of developing variety of health problems including ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and allergic diseases.
What are the health benefits if a person managed to quit smoking abruptly?

Smokers who have managed to quit smoking abruptly will have a lot of health benefits, including less chance of developing permanent lung disease (Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease), stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, lung cancer and many more.

 In summary

Tobacco smoke is a powerful asthma trigger that can worsen asthma symptoms. Therefore, smokers who have managed to quit abruptly will have better asthma control. Similarly, second-hand smoke or passive smoking is also a trigger for people with asthma. Therefore, it is important for parents who smoke to quit abruptly to protect their love one from exposure to secondhand smoke and to prevent further attack of severe asthma.

In short, abrupt quitting will improve the overall asthma control of the asthma. It is NOT true that abrupt quitting can worsen asthma control.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Asthma: Common Asthma Triggers [last updated 2012 Aug 20; accessed 2015 August 12].
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Second hand smoke and asthma. [accessed 2015 August 12].
  3. Asthma Foundation. Smoking and asthma. [accessed 2015 August 12]
  4. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: No Butts About It: Smoking Makes Asthma Updated May 15, 2013 Worse.” [accessed 2015 August 12]
  5. Ministry Of Health Malaysia. Clinical Practice Guidelines For Management Of Adult Asthma 2002.
  6. Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention: Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) (Updated 2014)
  7. British Thoracic Society. British Guideline on the Management of Asthma-a national guideline 2008.


Last Reviewed : 12 September 2017
Writer : Dr. Ho Bee Kiau
Accreditor : Dr. Norhaya bt. Mohd Razali

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