Adolescents with asthma are twice as likely to smoke as their counterparts without asthma, according to a new study.
“The curiosity about cigarettes is the primary reason why asthmatic adolescents smoke for the first time and developed a greater dependence to nicotine compared to healthy adolescents,” stated the researchers, led by Francisco Vazquez-Nava, PhD, of the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas in Tampico, Mexico.
The researchers conducted an epidemiologic profile of smoking and the degree of nicotine dependence among 3,383 adolescents with asthma, age 13 to 19 years. Based on interviews and responses from a previously validated questionnaire, the researchers divided the smoking adolescents into two groups, one composed of those with asthma and the other of healthy youths.
The study found that adolescents with asthma were more likely to smoke and to have some degree of nicotine dependence (21.6%) as compared to healthy adolescents (11.8%). The most important characteristic of smoking in the adolescents with asthma was found to be onset of the behavior before 11 years of age in repsonse to curiosity about cigarettes.
Morning smoking was common. Among those who reported smoking, 22.6% of adolescents with and 9.8% of those without asthma reported smoking more in the morning than during the rest of the day. Also, three-quarters of subjects with asthma and 85.3% of those without the disease reported smoking fewer than 10 cigarettes a day.
High tobacco dependence was found among 5.4% of asthmatics as compared to less than 1% of non-asthmatics. Tobacco dependence was moderate in 10.8% of asthmatics and 2.6% of non-asthmatics.
Unfortunately, 12.9% of the youth with asthma reported smoking when they had asthma symptoms.
“These youths continue smoking because this habit decreases their anxiety and stress,” the researchers stated. The authors also noted that adolescents in the study know that smoking is addictive, that they often smoke in the morning upon waking or when they are ill. “Yet,” they added, “these adolescents do not consider smoking to be a problem.”
According to a Centers for Disease Control nationally representative survey of 2,250 children and teens with asthma, 17.3% of asthmatic adolescents ages 12-19 are exposed to tobacco products. Smoking rates among low-income teens with asthma are even higher (23.3%).
CDC figures show that about 20% of American adults with asthma smoke cigarettes.
The researchers concluded that “the findings show that many of the factors that favor the development of smoking are preventable given that they are present in the family and social environment.”
The researchers presented the results at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting in San Francisco on November 11, 2016.