Smoking and COPD- A Loyal Connection

Smoking and COPD- A Loyal Connection

Healthy lungs are a gift of life. However, throughout our life years, we come across several elements that can damage our lungs. Smoking is the biggest cause of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD). The most common symptom of COPD is difficulty in breathing.

There are several reasons why a COPD patient suffers from difficulty in breathing. Smoking causes the weakening of the lungs through different pathways. Difficulty in breathing is also related to lung infections, bad genes and air pollution, but today we will focus on smoking and its impact from the root level and upwards.

Understanding How Smoking Causes COPD

Effects of Smoking at the Cellular Level

We understand that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases are triggered into existence with the help of inhaled materials. One of the biggest irritants that damage the lower respiratory system is Smoking.

One would think that the variety of chemicals that come with smoke would be easily countered by our strong immune systems. But what if we tell you that smoking can exaggerate your body’s response?

The smoke brings in oxygen-derived metabolites and reactive oxygen species (ROS) into your respiratory system. These chemicals have a destructive effect on the cellular level. COPD is related to the proliferation of CD8+/CD4+ T cells. These T cells in turn are influenced by the smoke chemicals. These cells affect the different cells lining the air passageway in different ways.  

Epithelial Cell Changes

The chemicals tend to act on the attachments between the epithelial cells lining the air passageways. The lack of attachment between lining cells leads to the chemicals gaining entrance into the protected airway structures. This leads to their structural changes as the irritated cells change under influence of smoke particles.

Eosinophil Cell’s Appearance

Patients with COPD who smoke also show the presence of eosinophil cells. Eosinophils are mainly found in reaction to an allergen. However, in this case, they trigger other pathways to spread cellular destruction.

Goblet Cells Proliferation

The passageways also have goblet cells that produce mucin when they are irritated by particles, viruses, or bacteria. But due to smoking-associated injuries and different pathways, these cells grow in number (hyperplasia) and are exaggerated (hypertrophy) in their function. They produce copious amounts of mucin in those smoking with COPD.

Ciliated Cell Function Loss

The ciliated cells that line the air passageways lose their function of moving the mucus from the air passageway. Consequently, the passageways become a hotspot for the external irritants to gather. You would find dust particles, smoke particles, and cellular waste products in the mucus of someone smoking with COPD.

Lungs of a Smoker

The more severe the COPD condition gets, the more reaction is seen in the lungs. In this case of a smoker with COPD, we see the presence of neutrophils, T lymphocytes, macrophages, and B lymphocytes in the collection of fluid found in the smallest of airways. This fluid/mucus is often enough to completely block out the passage of oxygen.

Protease- Elastase Effect

Study has found that emphysema development is dependent on the highly reactive inflammatory cells in our bodies. Smoke attacks our lung tissue. Lung tissues get inflamed and there is a resultant strong presence of neutrophils, macrophages and lymphocytes. Neutrophils tend to produce elastase and macrophages produce protease; both cells produce harmful oxidants. All of these cells work together to reduce the elasticity of the lung tissue.

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin (α1AT) Deficiency

Alpha-1 antitrypsin (α1AT) deficiency is strongly connected to the destruction of alveolar walls in this manner. Alpha-1 antitrypsin (α1AT) is a deterrent against the elastase-protease released during inflammation.

Healthy lungs differ from the lungs of a smoker, especially by the presence of this protein.          

Can Secondhand Smoking Affect You?

Studies have shown that those with prenatal smoking exposure were more likely to have COPD than those who weren’t exposed. Children whose mothers don’t stop smoking during pregnancy have decreased lung function and airflow. These kids have a high chance of developing chronic bronchitis. Prenatal exposure is the earliest form of secondhand smoking for children.

Interestingly smoke just from the outside burning part of the cigarette is enough to trigger the immune system. It is already well recognized that air pollution, and confined spaces with toxic chemicals are harmful to the lungs.

2 out of 10 patients with COPD have a history of secondhand smoking. This says a lot about the harmful effects of smoking. Want to know how to keep your lungs healthy?

Follow Our Advice!

Don’t take risks!

You see someone smoking. Leave the room. You don’t need that secondhand smoke.

Make sure that your friends and family are on the same page as you with regard to smoking. Respect them and let them respect your boundaries too.

Only go to places where smoking is not allowed.

Protect yourself even from air pollution. Wear a mask whenever you can.    

3A Sanai Health has great mask options that you can use regularly. The aroma beads allow for a better experience when you’re stuck wearing a mask.

Here’s a link to the product.

Smoking with COPD

Let’s face it, those with addictions find it hard to leave them easily. It’s an uphill struggle. You more than likely find yourself asking this question and here you are-

Yes! Yes, smoking will only make your COPD worse!

Smoking is known to cause lung cancer, cystic fibrosis, and COPD through its direct effects. Consider the effects of smoking on an already damaged lung.

Imagine a wall under attack. Suddenly, an even bigger threat appears in the form of a bulldozer. This bulldozer will obliterate the wall much faster. The bulldozer in this case is the smoking habit.

Your overactive goblet cells will produce even more mucus. The available passage for air will reduce.

Smoking is going to destroy your alveolar walls. Even when you get supplemental oxygen, you wouldn’t be able to get maximum benefits.

Save yourself and quit smoking with COPD.  

Will Quitting Smoking Help with Treating COPD?

Long studies on this topic have revealed a few interesting tidbits.

  1. The presence of inflammatory cells in lung tissue remains even after you leave smoking. These cells continue to damage the lung tissue but at a slower pace than when you actively smoke.
  2. The quicker you quit smoking, the better your COPD diagnosis gets. Your lungs return to their original working capacity.
  3. The lung tissue lost to damage from smoking is never recovered in severe cases. However, the lung function can get back to normal.
  4. When you stop smoking, the symptoms get better. Less coughing and breathlessness.

If you find yourself asking how to keep you lungs healthy while continuing to smoke, just stop. You can’t continue smoking and expect to see good results. Smoking and COPD worsening go hand in hand.


This article goes in-depth about smoking and COPD. We know that a lot of lung diseases are caused by smoking, but there is staggering evidence that secondhand smoking is dangerous too. In today’s times when we are already fighting for our weak lungs to function properly- do we really need smoking?

The lungs of a smoker present a thought-provoking picture for us all. So much damage goes unnoticed for a long time until the COPD symptoms start appearing. Difficulty in breathing and coughing up sputum are especially persistent among the COPD symptoms.

Healthy lungs require your constant effort. We hope that this article will help you make the right choice of quitting smoking.

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