Four Devastating Lung Diseases Caused by Smoking

Smoking poses significant health risks to the people of India. Discover the different types of lung diseases attributed to smoking.

4 Deadly Types of Lung Diseases Caused By Smoking
4 Deadly Types of Lung Diseases Caused By Smoking

Purshottam Gupta faced a crisis a year ago when, on a Wednesday morning he had planned to go to work but ended up in the hospital, struggling to breathe. At 56 years old, Gupta, an accountant at a small gas agency, had been a smoker for 25 years, and the toll was evident.

According to a report by the International Tobacco Control Project (ITCP), tobacco consumption inflicts significant damage on the health of India’s population and could lead to a death toll of 1.5 million annually by 2020 if more users are not encouraged to quit the habit. Reuters described that India, with a population of 1.2 billion, currently has approximately 275 million tobacco users. Tobacco-related harm accounts for nearly half of all cancers among males and a quarter of all cancers among females in the country, while also being a leading cause of heart and lung diseases.

Smoking causes damage to the lungs and airways, diminishing their ability to efficiently take in oxygen, expel carbon dioxide, and shield against germs and irritant particles.

The impact of smoking on our lungs is profound and detrimental

Many smokers are aware of the damage smoking inflicts on their lungs, experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath and increased difficulty breathing. These issues arise because with each cigarette smoked, several processes occur:

  1. The tiny hairs in the upper airways (cilia) become paralyzed or damaged by the chemicals in cigarette smoke.
  2. Irritation in the lungs causes the airways to narrow, leading to increased phlegm production and making breathing more challenging.
  3. Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas present in cigarette smoke, enters the bloodstream and reduces the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen.

Smoking is linked to numerous respiratory diseases. They include:

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer stands as the most prevalent form of cancer, causing the highest number of deaths globally. It contributes to 1.61 million new cases and 1.38 million cancer-related deaths annually. Approximately 90% of all lung cancer cases are attributed to smoking, a risk that extends to passive smokers as well. Unfortunately, lung cancer carries a dismal prognosis, with fewer than ten percent of patients surviving beyond five years post-diagnosis. Shockingly, one out of every two persistent smokers succumbs to a smoking-related illness, and approximately one in four of these deaths is due to lung cancer. Current smokers face a fifteen-fold increased risk of dying from lung cancer compared to lifelong non-smokers. Moreover, the duration of smoking is the most significant contributing factor to lung cancer risk among smokers, with the risk further escalating with the number of cigarettes smoked daily.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is another serious respiratory condition associated with smoking

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is characterized by airflow obstruction that hampers normal breathing. Smoking, the primary cause of COPD, is responsible for nearly 80% of cases. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 210 million people worldwide suffer from COPD, with 80 million experiencing moderate to severe symptoms.

COPD can be classified into two main respiratory problems:

  1. Emphysema: This condition involves the destruction of air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. Emphysema develops gradually, with breathlessness becoming increasingly problematic as approximately half of the lung tissue is destroyed. While emphysema is not fully reversible, quitting smoking can help slow the rate of lung decline in individuals diagnosed with COPD.
  2. Pneumonia: Ranked among the top five leading causes of death globally, pneumonia is an acute respiratory infection. It is also the primary cause of childhood mortality worldwide, with parental smoking recognized as a significant risk factor for childhood pneumonia.


Tuberculosis (TB) infection is caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria. When a TB patient coughs into the air, the cough droplets containing bacteria can be inhaled by others, leading to the spread of TB. Numerous studies have shown a significant association between tobacco smoking and TB, with the disease being more prevalent among smokers.


Asthma affects the airways and is the most common childhood disease. During an asthma attack, the walls of the airways tighten and narrow, while the lining becomes inflamed and swollen. Exposure to second-hand smoke is a significant trigger for asthma development. In children, parental smoking is a leading cause of asthma, and the prevalence of asthma increases with the number of smokers in the household. Children with asthma whose parents smoke are twice as likely to experience asthma symptoms year-round compared to children of non-smokers. Wheezing and physician-diagnosed asthma are more prevalent among children living with smokers.

Given these facts, quitting smoking is imperative for your health and the well-being of your family. Quitting is the best option to prevent lung diseases and prolong your life. To quit successfully, you must overcome both the physical addiction to nicotine and the habit of smoking.