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January 17-23 is National Non-Smoking Week, a great time to learn about the benefits of living a smoke-free life. Whether you smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke, find ways to reduce your risks from this toxic mix of pollutants. Make 2016 a healthier year for you and those around you.
Smoking is a big asthma trigger. If you smoke and have asthma, you may find it difficult to control your asthma. That’s because smoking bothers your airways by causing them to become tight and swollen. You may find you are more short of breath, wheezy or cough more. Asthma flare-ups can happen more often when you smoke. Flare-ups can be more severe and harder to control even with medicine. You may need to take more asthma medicine and you may end up in the doctor’s office, emergency department or hospital more often.
If you smoke while your children are growing up or while you are pregnant, there is a higher chance that they will develop asthma. Therefore, it is very important not to smoke during pregnancy or around children, including in your home or car.
How do you feel about your smoking? Are you thinking about quitting? Nowadays there are many options to help you quit. While some people can quit cold turkey, many people find that way very hard. There are a few methods that research has shown to be very helpful. One is nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT replaces the nicotine that you would normally get from smoking tobacco. NRT comes in different forms. There is the patch, the gum, the lozenge and now, the inhaler. All types of NRT are better choices than getting nicotine from smoking.
Nicotine is the addictive part of a cigarette that keeps you wanting to light up. It. When used properly, the advantage of NRT is that it allows you to get your nicotine from a source that does not also expose you to thousands of other harmful chemicals. There are over 7,000 poisons in cigarettes (e.g., lead, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, acetone, arsenic, ammonia) that are responsible for many tobacco-related diseases. About 70 are known to cause cancer.
There are also prescription medicines you can take. Talk to your health care provider. These medicines work by reducing your cravings.
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have become very popular in recent years. There are different types. Some contain nicotine and some don’t. Unfortunately, there is very little research about the safety of e-cigarettes or whether or not they can help you quit smoking, so they are generally not recommended.
If you are not yet ready to quit, at least think about smoking outside. Keeping the indoor air smoke-free is the best way to protect yourself and others from the effects of second-hand smoke (smoke that is exhaled by the person smoking) and third-hand smoke (smoke that lingers long after the cigarette has been put out).
The Lung Association has a booklet to help you quit smoking, “Journey 2 Quit” and two brochures entitled “Steps to Make Your Home Smoke Free” and “Third-Hand Smoke”. To order a copy of these or if you have questions about asthma and smoking, call the Lung Health Information Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864), email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.on.lung.ca.
A vital part of the overall management of asthma is monitoring. It is important to monitor your asthma symptoms over time – over hours, days, weeks and months. Learning how to monitor your asthma and using the tools available can help you get your asthma under control on a short-term and long-term basis.
There are many tools available to help you monitor a chronic condition. For diabetes, there is the blood glucose monitor. For high blood pressure, there is the blood pressure monitor. One tool provided by the Ontario Lung Association for monitoring asthma is the Asthma Control Check, a set of five simple questions that helps you check to see if your asthma is under control.
Asthma Control Check
To help monitor your asthma, answer the following five “YES, NO” questions.
If you answer YES to any one of the questions, your asthma may not be under full control. You can use your written asthma action plan from your health-care provider to help to get it back under control. You also may wish to make an appointment with your health-care provider.
The Asthma Control Check focuses on monitoring the following five factors that help gauge your level of asthma control:
Most people who have their asthma under good control should be able to live a normal life, with few limitations. By focusing on the five factors above, you will have a very good idea whether or not your asthma is being managed optimally.
You can also use an asthma diary to track your asthma over time. You can track symptoms, medication use, peak flow meter readings (if you use one), and asthma triggers.
Lung Health Information Line
We get many calls to the Ontario Lung Association Lung Health Information Line about asthma. We often ask callers the five Asthma Control Check questions and find that many do not have their asthma under control. In fact, many have had uncontrolled asthma for years. For example, many callers were using their reliever inhaler every day and thought that this was fine. Many did not exercise regularly because they got too short of breath since their asthma was not under control.
Most people who contact us believe that their asthma is under control. However, research has shown that most do not have good control of their asthma. Uncontrolled asthma can lead to a lower quality of life and an increased risk of having an asthma attack. If you answer YES to any of the five Asthma Control Check questions, see your health-care provider.
The Ontario Lung Association has certified respiratory educators available Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. to answer questions about getting your asthma under control. Call the Lung Health Information Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) or email email@example.com.
Many Ontario residents who do not allow smoking in their home are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke. Smoke can travel from one “multi-unit dwelling” (e.g., apartment, townhouse) to the next through spaces between walls, around plumbing and electrical outlets, through doors, and through ventilation ducts. This is called “drifting smoke”. If you have a lung disease such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, this is not just a nuisance. This regular exposure to smoke can also be harmful.
A multi-unit dwelling is defined as any type of building containing more than one residential unit, and includes:
A 2011 Canadian Cancer Society study showed that:
The Lung Association receives many calls on the Lung Health Information Line from people who live in multi-unit dwellings who become sick from the second-hand smoke entering their units. Involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke can occur in any type of residence with shared walls, hallways or ventilation.
Tobacco smoke can enter through:
There are a number of things you as a tenant can do if you are exposed to second-hand smoke in your unit, such as:
The landlord or condo board can:
If you smoke, be kind to your neighbour and try to consider their needs to live in a smoke-free home. You’ll be doing them and yourself a favour if you smoke outside, by removing second-hand smoke. And consider the healthiest option – quitting smoking.
In Ontario, it is legal to have a non-smoking building. The Ontario Lung Association continues to work with other organizations to promote smoke-free living. Smoke-Free Housing Ontario is a coalition of health organizations (including Ontario Lung Association) concerned about the lack of smoke-free housing options in Ontario and about the health effects of involuntary second-hand smoke exposure.
For more information about smoke-free housing, visit www.smokefreehousingon.ca. And check out the amazing success stories highlighted here: www.smokefreehousingon.ca/sfho/tenants-success-stories.html. There is a clear need for more smoke-free buildings like these.
Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas that is found naturally in the ground from the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. It can seep into homes and buildings through cracks in the foundation walls or floors and small openings around pipes and drains, and can build up to dangerous levels indoors.
The Lung Association is encouraging all residents to test their home for radon. Test kits can be purchased from home improvement stores or online. It is recommended to use a long-term radon test kit, which allows for a minimum testing period of three months. The best time to conduct testing is during the colder months of the year (October-April) as the home is more sealed up and this will provide a more accurate radon reading in the home
For help in quitting smoking, call the Ontario Lung Association Lung Health Information Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864). To help you on your journey towards a smoke-free life, order the workbook Journey 2 Quit.