Healthy Living in the North

Wildfire smoke: many tobacco users finding it hard to breathe!

fire fighter walking by forrest fire

Tobacco users may find that wildfire smoke is causing severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, persistent coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and increased mucous production.

I spoke with a friend who smokes cigarettes earlier this week and she said that she wasn’t able to leave the house over the weekend due to the forest fire smoke in the air.

Wildfire smoke is a mixture of particles and gas containing hundreds of chemicals, and tobacco users may find that wildfire smoke is causing severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, persistent coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and increased mucous production.

Is it a preview of what lies ahead?

If you smoke cigarettes or cigars, the toxins in tobacco smoke may be already causing severe lung irritation and the onset of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Symptoms of COPD occur when the lungs and airways lose their elasticity, the walls between air sacs are destroyed, the airways thicken and become swollen and more mucous is produced.

During times of poor air quality such as wild fire smoke, some smokers find it very hard to breathe because they already have lung disease. They may not be aware that they have COPD. Although the fires will soon be extinguished, the progression of COPD continues if tobacco users don’t quit.

In the years ahead, smokers may experience shortness of breath, persistent coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and increased mucous production every day, even when the air quality is good.

The discomfort that my friend has been experiencing is helping her make a quit plan. She doesn’t want to feel like that again!

If you are concerned about your health or the health of others, there are resources to help quit using tobacco.

For help quitting smoking visit quitnow.ca or call 1-877-455-2233.

Access information and FREE nicotine patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program. Visit your pharmacy to access these products. You may be eligible for assistance to purchase smoking cessation medications.

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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