What is the Connection Between Bronchitis and Smoking?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2020
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Bronchitis is a respiratory condition in which the bronchial tubes become irritated or inflamed. The primary function of the bronchial tubes is to transport air to and away from the lungs. When a person has bronchitis, his or her bronchial tubes cannot function properly and may result in a constant cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, and excessive production of mucus. There tends to be a high risk factor between bronchitis and smoking; people who smoke or are constantly around others who smoke are generally more likely to not only develop the condition, but to have it last for a longer time.

There are two main types of bronchitis: acute, which tends to only last less than a week with symptoms that easily subside; and chronic, which lasts longer and may constantly recur. Chronic bronchitis and smoking generally have a higher connection than with acute. A smoker is usually more likely to suffer from chronic bronchitis and require medical attention for his or her symptoms.


The connection between bronchitis and smoking tends to be so high as a result of the substances in tobacco smoke. When a person inhales tobacco smoke, it can cause irritation to the lining of the bronchial tubes, known as cilia. Cilia are tiny hairs located along the airways that help clear out debris in order to prevent it from reaching the lungs and disturbing breathing patterns. With repeated exposure to tobacco smoke, the cilia can become temporarily weakened and over time, stop working properly and can result in bacteria, debris, and the chemicals found in tobacco smoke accumulating in the lungs.

Once these types of substances make their way into a person’s lungs, he or she will typically begin to have an increased cough due to an excessive amount of mucus production, signaling the onset of bronchitis. In a nonsmoker who contracts bronchitis as the result of exposure to pollutants or bacteria causing irritation of the bronchial tubes, the condition will typically subside without treatment after being away from any additional irritants. In a smoker, there tends to be a higher likelihood of bronchitis and smoking leading to a chronic respiratory issue that doesn‘t respond as well to treatment.

Chronic bronchitis can lead to a variety of other dangerous respiratory conditions, including asthma and even lung cancer. Continued bouts of bronchitis and smoking over a long period of time can also make it more difficult for the respiratory system to recover from any respiratory conditions, such as the common cold. As a result, most doctors will recommend people who develop bronchitis immediately cease smoking.



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