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Tobacco smoke and e-cigarette aerosol hurts everyone. It can affect you even if you aren’t around someone who is actively smoking or vaping. The effects of smoking and vaping reach much farther than many people realize.

Tobacco smoke and e-cigarette aerosol can be especially harmful to people who have asthma, children, and older adults. If you smoke or vape or are around someone who does, you need to know about the effects to help you manage your asthma and prevent asthma symptoms.

How Does Smoking and Vaping Affect Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that causes your airways to become inflamed, making it hard to breathe. Asthma triggers cause this inflammation. Triggers are things that bother people with asthma but may not bother other people. Tobacco smoke is one of the most common triggers of asthma symptoms.

When you think of the bad ingredients in tobacco, nicotine usually comes to mind. But tobacco smoke is full of many other toxic substances, like arsenic, cyanide, and many more.

The aerosol from e-cigarettes is harmful too. E-cigarettes are sometimes called e-cigs, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), vape pens, or vapes. Vaping is the act of breathing e-cigarette aerosol in and out. E-cigarette aerosol often contains nicotine and other toxic chemicals.

The chemicals in tobacco smoke and e-cigarette aerosol can irritate your lungs and the lungs of people around you.

What Is Secondhand and Thirdhand Smoke and Aerosol?

Secondhand smoke is tobacco smoke inhaled by someone who doesn’t smoke. This includes e-cigarette aerosol too. Thirdhand smoke is residue from tobacco smoke. It sticks to surfaces and dust for months after a cigarette has been smoked.

Secondhand and thirdhand smoke can cause many of the same problems smoking can cause. Children are the most affected by secondhand and thirdhand smoke.

Scientists are still learning about thirdhand e-cigarette aerosol. But they do know that the substances found in e-cigarette aerosol can stick to surfaces and it is very hard to clean.

The only way we can decrease asthma attacks from tobacco and vaping is to reduce exposure to it. If you smoke or vape, do your best to quit. Ask others not to smoke in or near your home or car. Support laws that ban smoking in public places.

Learn more about the effects of tobacco smoke and vaping and get resources to help you quit at:

Medical Review: adapted from the webpage “Tobacco Smoke, Vaping, and Asthma” reviewed May 2024 by Maureen George, PhD, RN, AEC, FAAN

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