Reducing smoking’s impact on asthma

Smoking - and breathing in second-hand smoke - makes asthma worse over the long term by causing permanent damage to the lungs.

We’ve made real progress in the past decade to reduce people’s exposure to second-hand smoke in public places and restrict tobacco marketing. But around a fifth of people in the UK continue to smoke, so there is still work to be done to encourage those remaining smokers to quit.

Why is this important?

Smoking can cause people to develop asthma and increases the risk of more potentially life-threatening asthma attacks. It can also reduce lung function and lessens the effectiveness of some asthma medicines. This places a huge burden on the health service, and on people with asthma. 

This is why efforts to help encourage people to quit and government action to reduce the harm of smoking are so vital. For example, protecting people in public indoor spaces through the smoke-free legislation in the UK saw fewer people attending hospital for asthma. This was extended in recent years to include cars where children are present, though laws still need to be introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland to make this UK-wide. 

Local stop smoking services are under threat due to cuts in public health budgets, so it is important that people wanting to quit are supported to maximise their chances of successfully quitting.

What needs to happen?

Asthma UK wants to see laws implemented in Scotland and Northern Ireland to make cars smoke-free where children are present, to ensure that this is UK-wide.

We also support calls from the Smoking Still Kills report aimed at protecting children from the harms of smoking and reducing health inequalities. This includes the need for a levy on tobacco, paid by tobacco companies, to provide funding for local stop smoking services.

Increasingly, people are using electronic cigarettes to help them cut down or quit smoking. Reviews of the evidence suggest that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking in the short term. Asthma UK is calling for more research into the overall long-term effects of e-cigarettes, and on the short-term effects for smokers and non-smokers with asthma.

What is Asthma UK doing to help?

  • Asthma UK is helping to reduce the harm from smoking working in partnership with the Smokefree Action Coalition, the Scottish Coalition on Tobacco, and the Wales Tobacco Control Alliance  
  • We continue to support actions aimed at extending laws to make cars where children are present smoke-free in Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • We have raised concerns that cuts to local health budgets could seriously threaten locally-commissioned stop smoking services
  • Alongside others, we are calling for the UK Government to introduce a tobacco levy to directly fund stop smoking policies


If you have any questions about this you can email us at

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