How Smoking Affects Your Health

Today is the annual Great American Smokeout, a day where respiratory therapy stands at the forethought as smokers across the country are encouraged to quit smoking, even if it’s for just one day. We want all of our students, faculty, staff and alumni at Concorde to be healthy and happy. We’re looking at the effects of smoking on the lungs to commemorate this day for respiratory therapy. We sought the advice of some of our resident Concorde experts – our Respiratory Therapy program directors. They offered knowledge on the effects of smoking on the lungs and how a body can recover once you quit. Here’s what they had to say.

How smoking affects the lungs and respiratory system

Amir Mirisoleiman, Respiratory Therapy Program Director at Concorde’s San Antonio campus, said smoking can damage the airways of the lungs and cause an underlining disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There are five diseases that are included in COPD, Mirisoleiman said – cystic fibrosis, bronchitis, asthma, bronchiectasis and emphysema. “All of the above diseases take place in the lungs and directly affect the lungs’ ability to do what they are designed to do which is gas exchange, exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide,” he said. “Failure for proper gas exchange causes lack of oxygenation to the tissues and organs of the body which then causes other problems.” Gum disease, tooth decay, high cholesterol, diabetes hypertension, stroke, heart attack, kidney disease and lung cancer are other complications with smoking.

Increased health risks with smoking, requiring Respiratory Therapy

Estimates show smoking increases the risk for coronary heart disease by 2-4 times, according to Tommy Rust, MEd, RRT, RCP, FAARC, Lead Program Director Respiratory Therapy for Concorde’s campus in Dallas. Same for increasing instances of stroke. Smoking increases the risk for men developing lung cancer by 25 times, 25.7 for women. Smokers are 12-13 times more likely to die from COPD than nonsmokers, Rust said. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, at least 69 of which are known to cause cancer, according to Sylton Hurdle, BSRT, RRT, Respiratory Therapy Program Director at Concorde's campus in Garden Grove, Calif.

The good news

Kimberly Buckaloo, RRT, Respiratory Therapy Program Director at Concorde’s campus in Jacksonville, Fla., offered a timeline of the effects on the body when someone stops smoking. “It’s never too late to quit smoking,” Buckaloo said. “Here is some information from the U.S. Surgeon General on the positive effects.” 20 minutes after quitting – The heart rate and blood pressure drop. 12 hours after quitting – The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. 2-3 months after quitting – Circulation improves and lung function increases. 1-9 months after quitting – Coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) start to regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs and reduce the risk of infection. 1 year after quitting – The excess of risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s. 5 years after quitting – Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2-5 years. 10 years after quitting – The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx and pancreas decreases. 15 years after quitting – The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker.
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“Without the support of certain instructors … I would not have pushed myself to grasp the concepts and pass my boards on the first attempt. Once I passed my boards, it was less than one month after that I landed my first Respiratory Therapist job where I am currently working with so much joy every day.”

Marcus Streator
Respiratory Therapy graduate

“Knowing I could be working as a Dental Assistant in eight months was crazy to me! I loved going to class and would drive an hour there every day. I’m truly happy that I took the step to go to Concorde. It was the best thing I have done for my family.”

Andrea Nolan
Dental Assistant graduate