- Belung Magazine
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'Why keep smoking when you suffer from a lung disease?'

Did you know that some people with a lung condition continue to smoke? At first glance, this seems a little bit absurd: why would you continue this fatal habit, even when your lungs already have a tough time to supply you with vital oxygen? English investigators wanted to solve this riddle and find an explanation for why some people with 'bad lungs' can't seem to quit their lethal habit.


Sarah Masefield and colleagues from the European Lung Foundation, Sheffield, explored the characteristics of people across Europe with a diagnosed lung condition and who currently smoke, in order to improve cessation outcomes. The researchers developed a web-based questionnaire covering topics like: perspectives on smoking cessation; interactions with healthcare professional and recommendations to improve cessation outcomes. The questionnaire was disseminated in 16 languages via existing patient and professional networks and social media channels. 

smoking_infographic_belung.png Main reasons for survey respondents not stopping smoking (multiple choices could be selected).

“I think that if I stop smoking my world would simply collapse”.

Common reasons for continuing to smoke turned out to be: ‘It helps me cope with stress” (49%); “I tried to quit but do not seem able to do it” (43%); and “I enjoy smoking” (40%). Habit was the most common additional reason, with catastrophic thinking evident in some cases: “I think that if I stop smoking my world would simply collapse”. Respondents also referred to the addictive nature of tobacco and many felt that health care professionals do not adequately understand nicotine addiction and the difficulty stopping. 

The investigators conclude a key finding of the study is that 67% of respondents made at least one cessation attempt in the last 12 months, and either smoke less (59%) or enjoy smoking less (52%) since their diagnosis. ‘This indicates a desire to stop smoking and supports the recommendation that health care professionals should frequently repeat cessation advice, as there may be a period following diagnosis when the person is more receptive to cessation guidance.’ 

Masefield S, Powell P, Jiménez-Ruiz C, et al. Recommendations to improve smoking cessation outcomes from people with lung conditions who smoke. ERJ Open Res 2016; 2: 00009-2016.