Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Editorial Board: Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Environmental Tobacco Smoke


This article is a continuation follow-up of the series of articles on Avoiding Your Asthma Triggers.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)

Environmental tobacco smoke or ETS effects in Adults

  1. More often asthma exacerbations
  2. Increased severity of asthma exacerbations
  3. Increased lung infections like bronchitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane in the bronchial tubes) and pneumonia (lung inflammation caused by bacterial or viral infection)

Environmental tobacco smoke or ETS effects in Children

  1. Decreased lung function, recurrent wheezing, and development of asthma among babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy
  2. Increased number of asthma cases among children exposed to ETS
  3. Increased level of asthma severity and poorer asthma control
  4. Decreased lung function
  5. More inflammation in the lung
  6. Increased daytime and nighttime asthma symptoms
  7. More frequent exacerbations
  8. More visits to the doctor and hospitalizations
  9. More intubations (tube inserted in the mouth/nose to provide artificial breathing)
  10. More episodes of bronchitis and pneumonia during the first two years of life
  11. Slower rate of lung growth during childhood 

Environmental tobacco smoke or ETS Exposure Reduction

Make your home a smoke-free zone: 

  1. Do not smoke in your home or allow anyone else to. Consider taking the Smoke Free Home Pledge. Make sure you inform baby-sitters and other caregivers that you do not allow smoking in your home and that you do want people smoking near your child.
  2. Make your car an extension of your home: Do not smoke in your car or let anyone else do so.
  3. Do not smoke in the presence of your child or let anyone else do so.
  4. If you or a family member do smoke: Do not to smoke in your child’s presence because of their predisposition to the adverse effects of ETS.
  5. Quit Smoking (if you are a smoker) Try to quit and make sure to support those that are trying to quit and advise those who are starting to smoke.
  6. Do not smoke if you are pregnant.
  7. Promote smoke free environments – Do not let your teenager work where they are exposed to poor work environment and consider patronizing smoke-free restaurants and businesses.

Secondhand smoke can not only trigger asthma attacks but make asthma symptoms more severe.

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or secondhand smoke is a mixture of both the smoke given off from a burning cigarette and exhaled from the lungs of a smoker. Tobacco smoke is known to have more than four thousand chemicals many of which are known poisons and potentially trigger and cause asthma symptoms and cancer,under statistically.

This exposures are not only associated with an increased risk of cancer and cardiovascular problems, but also specific risks related to asthma. This exposure is directly and causally related to both the development of new onset asthma and acute asthma exacerbations [(action that makes a problem or a disease (or its symptoms) worse)]. 

In children, there is also sufficient evidence to suggest ETS exposure is a cause of asthma. Children are potentially more at risk compared to adults because they are young and the fact they breathe faster than adults , meaning they are exposed to a greater amount of ETS due to their fast breathing. ETS exposures in children are associated with:-

Reducing ETS exposure is associated with both fewer visits to the doctor and fewer hospitalizations related to asthma treatments.

Do the following to reduce you or your child’s ETS exposure and improve your or your child’s asthma care:-

Even outdoors, an individual sitting a few feet from a lit cigarette can be exposed for short periods of time to substantial levels of contaminated air compared with normal background air pollution levels, some researchers have noted.

Recent studies also have found that asthmatic children of different races may show different susceptibility (the state or fact of being likely or liable to be influenced or harmed by a particular thing) to the toxic ingredients in tobacco smoke.

Exposure to secondhand smoke also has been related to new cases of asthma in children who have not previously shown symptoms.