Flu and smoking research
Many research studies show that smokers are more likely to die from influenza than nonsmokers (CDC).
Also, children exposed to second-hand smoke become more severely ill when they have a respiratory virus.
Previously, researchers thought that smoke suppressed the immune system's response to viruses, leaving people weakened and more likely to die from infection.
Now, a flu and smoking study has found that smoke can cause excessive stimulation of inflammation reactions rather than suppression of the immune system.
These excess inflammatory responses lead to more severe damage than the viruses would cause otherwise.
In an animal study, mice were exposed to smoke from the equivalent of two cigarettes daily for two weeks.
When exposed to a flu virus, the animals in the smoking group were able to clear the virus normally, but suffered excessive inflammation (over-stimulated inflammatory pathways) and greater tissue damage including fibrosis tissue scarring and cellular death (Kang MJ, Cigarette smoke selectively enhances viral PAMP- and virus-induced pulmonary innate immune and remodeling responses in mice, Journal of Clinical Investigation, July 2008).
How to stop smoking research
While this study is preliminary, it opens new doors to work with the permanent tissue damage and early deaths from smoking, as well as encouraging more people to stop smoking.
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This page last updated by Sharon Jones on December 27, 2012
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