How does cigarette smoke affect lungs?

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It is no secret that cigarette smoke adversely affects the lungs. Directly and indirectly, about 90 percent of the cases of lung cancer are attributed to smoking. But why exactly do experts like Pulmonologist in Lahore discourage smoking? Read on to find out:


What are the risks of smoking?


In adults:

  • Smoking predisposes to lung infection by reducing the defense mechanism of the lungs. In addition, the damage to this defense mechanism predisposes the smoker to a specific type of cough called smoker’s cough, which is a term used for people who have been smoking for a while. 
  • Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) like emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma risk is increased in people who smoke. This is because cigarette smoke irritates the tender tissues of the lungs, leading to their inflammation and subsequent damage. Additionally, smokers’ lungs tend to have a buildup of mucus, leading to thickening and scarring of bronchioles. Such lungs are also inefficient when it comes to oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange due to alveolar damage. Sadly, this damage is irreversible, leading to the incurable disease of COPD, which claims many lives every year.  
  • Cigarette or tobacco smoke can trigger asthma attacks, or make them worse when exposed to it.
  • The risk of death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is 12 to 13 times higher in smokers, in comparison to non-smokers.
  • The risk of lung cancer is higher in smokers.
  • The risk of other cancers is also higher in smoker. These include:
    • Kidney and ureter
    • Bladder cancer
    • Cervix 
    • Esophagus 
    • Larynx 
    • Liver
    • Oropharynx 
    • Stomach and pancreas 
    • Trachea
    • Colon and rectum 
    • Acute myeloid leukemia (blood cancer)  


In pregnant women, smoking causes: 

  • Abnormally developed lungs in the babies


In teenagers, smoking causes:

  • Lungs with a lower peak capacity 
  • Impact on growth 

What are the risks of passive smoking?


Passive smoking or the secondhand smoke inhaled by people also predisposes them to lung damage. In fact, close to 7000 cases of lung cancer and related deaths are seen in passive smokers. The symptoms linked to secondhand smoke include:

  • Coughing 
  • Airway irritation
  • Chest discomfort 
  • Excessive mucus production 

What about e-cigarettes?


E-cigarettes are the relatively new tobacco product, which are considered the alternative to cigarette smoking. The use of e-cigarettes is rising amongst the students, including teenagers and university students. In fact, surveys show that as much as 20.8 percent of the total student population may use e-cigarettes, particularly with its marketing campaign of a sleek, easy to conceal and ‘techy’ product. 


E-cigarettes deliver nicotine through a liquid cartridge or pod, which has about as much nicotine as a whole cigarette pack. Nicotine is the highly addictive ingredient found in cigarettes and e-cigarettes, which is the reason most people smoke in the first place. However, along with nicotine, e-cigarettes contain other harmful chemicals like vitamin E acetate, formaldehyde, acrolein and chemicals for fruity flavors that end up irritating the lung lining. This condition is termed ‘E-cigarette or vaping related lung injury’ (EVALI). 


In the year 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed close to 3000 cases of e-cigarettes and subsequent mortality related to this lung condition. 


Not only is vaping or e-cigarettes bad for lungs, but also for the cardiovascular health. Vaping induces spikes and sudden increase in blood pressure due to adrenaline surge, which predispose the user to heart attack. 

How is smoking cessation helpful?


According to experts like pulmonologist in Ittefaq Hospital quitting smoking helps through:

  • Improvement in breathing 
  • Less inflammation and irritation of airways
  • Decrease in shortness of breath 
  • Less wheezing and cough 
  • Decrease in the symptoms of asthma 
  • Symptoms of COPD decrease exponentially, and eventually disappear 
  • Lesser incidence of severe lung infections and even mild colds 
  • Decrease in the risk of community acquired pneumonia by 50 percent 
  • Decreased risk of lung cancer in five years 
  • Normalization of pre-cancerous lesions

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