Today is the start of the British Lung Foundation’s Love Your Lungs Week, when the charity will highlight the importance of maintaining good lung health. To mark the occasion, we’ve listed eight reasons why quitting smoking really is the best way to show your lungs some love. 💓
Smoking causes around 7 in 10 of all lung cancer cases in the UK. Around 9 out of 10 people who get lung cancer are smokers or ex-smokers. The younger a person starts smoking the higher the risk of lung cancer is. If you stop smoking, then after 12 years your risk of lung cancer is about 70% lower than that of smokers. After 15 years it is almost same as a non-smoker.
People who smoke are at far greater risk of developing respiratory infections. This is because smoking damages cilia, the tiny hairs that line the airways helping to sweep out mucus and dirt and allowing the lungs to stay clear.
Many smokers go on to develop the disease emphysema, which leads to severe shortness of breath. Alveoli are air sacs in the lungs that allow oxygen to enter the bloodstream from the lungs. Smoking destroys the alveoli, restricting the flow of oxygen around the body. Once the air sacs have been destroyed, they cannot grow back so smoking causes permanent damage to the lungs. Once enough of the alveoli have been destroyed the emphysema can develop.
Smoking causes inflammation in the small airways and tissues of the lungs. This can make the smoker’s chest feel tight and lead to wheeziness and shortness of breath. If the lungs are continually inflamed then scar tissue will build up. This can lead to a chronic cough and make breathing difficult.
Smokers are more at risk of suffering severe symptoms if they catch Covid-19 because smoking destroys the cells that line the nose and the upper and lower airways. Once these cells have been damaged the body’s natural lung defences are less able to fight off respiratory infections.
Covid-19 also poses a higher risk to smokers because of the pre-existing conditions it is linked to. Many of these conditions, including heart disease and respiratory conditions make patients far more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.
Smoking is the main cause of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) which is caused by the chemical in smoke that damage the lining of the lungs and airways and leading them to become inflamed. Stopping smoking can however stop the COPD from progressing.
Within two days of stopping smoking, your lungs will start to clear our mucus and other smoking debris. The carbon monoxide in your blood will reduce by more than half and your oxygen levels will return to normal. Within three to 9 months, your lung function will increase by 10% and coughs, wheezing and breathing problems will improve.
If you would like to give up smoking then you can receive free smoking cessation support from NHS Wales’ Help Me Quit service. Contact the Help Me Quit helpline on 0800 085 2219 or click here.