Throughout the day, your lungs work hard to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body and expel carbon dioxide waste. They’re a vital organ and should be treated with care.
Smoking and respiratory health over 7,000 chemicals, including 70 known cancer-causing substances. Smoking harms the delicate lining of the lungs and can lead to chronic coughing, lung damage such as emphysema and breathing difficulties, like COPD.
Damage to the Lungs
Every organ in your body serves a specific purpose. For example, your lungs deliver oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, as well as eliminate waste carbon dioxide. The lungs are especially vulnerable to cigarette smoke, as it contains cancer-causing chemicals called carcinogens.
Smoking can damage the tiny air sacs in your lungs known as alveoli, which can’t repair themselves. This damage can lead to a chronic cough, wheezing and breathlessness. It may also increase your risk of developing lung diseases like emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Even if you smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day, your lungs still suffer some long-term damage from smoking. A study found that lung function declines naturally with age, but smoking significantly accelerates that process. The good news is that a study found that your lungs are capable of regrowing healthy lung cells and reversing some of the damage done by tobacco smoke. That means that if you quit smoking, your lung function will return to near-normal.
Shortness of Breath
Breathing is a natural process, so it’s alarming to feel like you can’t get enough air. Experiencing shortness of breath can make it difficult to perform daily tasks, and even simple activities can be exhausting. Fortunately, many conditions that cause shortness of breath have treatment options, including prescription medications and lifestyle changes.
Smoking can damage the lungs, making it harder to breathe. Over time, this can lead to lung diseases such as COPD (including emphysema) and chronic bronchitis. It can also trigger asthma attacks.
In a study, researchers found that young adults who smoked one or more days per week were more likely to report experiencing shortness of breath after regular activities than those who did not smoke. The findings were consistent after controlling for demographic characteristics and other health behaviors.
Cigarette smoke can cause inflammation of the lungs and decrease lung function, making it harder to breathe. Smoking is linked to higher rates of asthma symptoms, unscheduled doctor visits and hospital admissions and poorer quality of life compared to nonsmokers. It can also lead to accelerated decline in lung function and make asthma medications less effective.
Studies show that smokers have a more rapid rate of loss of lung function than nonsmokers. They also have a more difficult time getting asthma under control, and they are more likely to be insensitive to corticosteroids.
Multivariate regression analysis showed that never-smoking status, an absence of dyspnea and exacerbations, and a forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) > or equal to 80% of predicted were associated with controlled asthma. These characteristics can be used to identify patients who would benefit from smoking cessation. However, these data need to be confirmed in larger clinical trials before they can be considered the standard of care for asthma treatment.
Lung cancer is a deadly disease that can affect smokers and nonsmokers alike. It occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in the lungs. Smoking causes 85% of all lung cancers and brings substances into the body that damage the lungs’ healthy tissues.
Symptoms may include a single mass or multiple masses on chest radiographs, pleural effusion, atelectasis, cavitary lesions, and parenchymal infiltrates. Other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, or weight loss can also occur.
If the cancer is confined to one area of the lungs, surgery and/or radiotherapy can be used to destroy the cancerous cells. If the cancer has spread, chemotherapy may be necessary. Research has shown that quitting smoking at or around the time of diagnosis and during treatment significantly increases survival rates for those with lung cancer.