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Asthma and smoking cessation

GEHA | September 4, 2018

Eliminating tobacco use can help reduce your asthma symptoms.

This probably isn't the first time you've heard that asthma and smoking don't go together very well. But did you know that quitting smoking when you have asthma is the most important step you can take to protect your lungs and prevent symptoms of asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways of the lungs. During an asthma attack, airways (tubes that carry air to your lungs) become swollen, making it hard to breathe. As the walls of the airways swell, they narrow, and less air gets in and out of the lungs. Cells in the airways can make more mucus (a sticky, thick liquid) than usual, which can make breathing even harder. Symptoms of an asthma attack include coughing, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, wheezing, and tightness or pain in the chest.

Tobacco smoke is one of the most common asthma triggers. 

In some cases, asthma can be reversible, but continuing to smoke on a daily basis long-term can cause your asthma to worsen over time. It can even lead to COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which is only partially reversible and progresses with age.


5 secrets to quitting smoking

Are you ready to quit? Here are five tips to help you on the path to success:

  1. It's never too late to quit. Quitting smoking at any age may enhance the length and quality of your life. 
  2. Learn from past experiences. Don't be discouraged thinking about your previous attempts to quit. Instead treat them as steps on the road to future success. 
  3. You don't have to quit alone. Enlisting the support of friends and family will help ease the process. Expert help is available from the American Lung Association and other groups. You may even inspire friends who smoke to join you in trying to quit.
  4. Medication can help. FDA-approved medications (like nicotine patches or gum) may help smokers quit, if they are used correctly. Follow the directions and speak with your health care provider.
  5. Every smoker can quit. Have a plan and stick with it. Don’t give in to your cravings.

Helpful resources:

Several organizations have resources that can help you be successful in quitting smoking, 

American Lung Association:

  • Quitter’s Circle. Online community and mobile app. Allows users to personalize a quit plan and access resources to connect with a healthcare provider about quitting, and encourages a circle of friends and family to lend support and along the way.
  • Freedom From Smoking®. In-person group clinic or online program.
  • Lung Helpline. Staffed with smoking cessation experts who can get you started on a quit plan, answer your questions and help you on a path to becoming tobacco-free. Call 800-LUNGUSA (800.586.4872).

Centers for Disease Control:

  • Quitline Services. Free telephone support service.Call 800.QUIT.NOW (800.784.8669). 
  • Quit Smoking Resources. Free online resources to help you quit smoking. 
  • Quit Plan Kit. Create your own quit plan using this free online resources. 

GEHA medical plans offer smoking cessation coverage, including counseling and prescription smoking cessation drugs. View your plan brochure or contact Customer Service for more information.