Rationale: Active smoking in asthma is associated with worsening of symptoms, accelerated decline in lung function, and impaired response to corticosteroids.
Objectives: To examine the short-term effects of smoking cessation on lung function, airway inflammation, and corticosteroid responsiveness in smokers with asthma.
Methods and measurements: Smokers with asthma were given the option to quit or continue smoking. Both groups underwent spirometry and induced sputum at baseline and at 1, 3, and 6 wk. Cutaneous vasoconstrictor response to topical beclometasone, airway response to oral prednisolone, and sensitivity of peripheral blood lymphocytes to corticosteroids were measured before smoking cessation and at 6 wk.
Main results: Of 32 subjects recruited, 11 opted to continue smoking (smoking control group). Of 21 subjects who opted for smoking cessation, 10 quit smoking for 6 wk (quit group). In the comparison of quitters with smokers at 6 wk, the mean (confidence interval [CI]) difference in FEV(1) was 407 ml (21, 793), p = 0.040, and the proportion of sputum neutrophils was reduced by 29 (51, 8), p = 0.039. Total cutaneous vasoconstrictor response score to topical beclometasone improved after smoking cessation with a mean (CI) difference of 3.56 (0.84, 6.28), p = 0.042, between quitters and smokers. There was no change in airway corticosteroid responses after smoking cessation.
Conclusions: By 6 wk after smoking cessation, subjects who quit smoking had achieved considerable improvement in lung function and a fall in sputum neutrophil count compared with subjects who continued to smoke. These findings highlight the importance of smoking cessation in asthma.