Smoking :: Smokers’ lung damage continues even after quitting

A new study shows that lung damage in smokers continues to progress, even after they have stopped smoking. The finding comes from an international team of researchers in respiratory medicine including a Massey University clinical pharmacology lecturer, Dr Felix Ram.

Until now, it has been widely thought that lung damage ceases when smoking ceases. The new study is the first to show that once smokers have established lung disease with the bronchial inflammation caused by smoking, it will continue after they have stopped smoking.

?The study has wide implications for how we manage patients with smoking related lung disease and for all smokers at large,? Dr Ram says. ?Instead of telling smokers that it?s never too late to quit, the new public health message is never take up smoking.?

The study was conducted with bronchial biopsy samples from patients in various hospitals in Britain, including the London Chest Hospital. There were 65 current smokers and 36 former smokers, aged between 60 and 65 years, who had been or still were smoking a pack a day, says Dr Ram. The study subjects had the smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that brings with it chronic bronchial inflammation.

The researchers say their results showed no statistically significant differences between smokers and ex-smokers in the numbers of any of the inflammatory cell types or markers analysed.

?This doesn?t mean that there is no point in quitting smoking,? Dr Ram says. ?Lung inflammatory damage will continue but smoking has other health effects and smokers will still benefit from giving up.?

Although now based at the School of Health Sciences at Massey University?s Auckland campus, Dr Ram has ongoing research collaborations with leading researchers in respiratory medicine in Europe.

The research was recently been published in the journal of the European Respiratory Society.

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