Objective: To assess the association between smoking and respiratory symptoms, lung function and bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) in young adults in Chile.
Setting: Selected sample of 1232 subjects aged 22-28 years.
Design: In this cross-sectional study, the outcome measures were: respiratory symptoms, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory flow between 25% and 75% (FEF25-75), FEV1/FVC and BHR.
Results: Among the 1232 subjects, 67.7% of the men and 49.4% of the women were smokers; the median cigarettes smoked per day was four for men and three for women. Smoking was associated with wheezing, waking up with a cough, breathlessness following exercise and persistent cough, with odds ratios (OR) between 1.94 (95% CI 1.41-2.66) and 3.12 (95% CI 2.21-4.40) among those smoking > or = 5 cigarettes per day, compared to non-smokers. Smoking < 5 cigarettes was significantly associated with wheezing and waking up with a cough. Smokers had a lower FEV1/FVC than non-smokers by approximately 0.8%. Smoking was not associated with FEV1, FEF25-75 or BHR status.
Conclusions: This study highlights the early effects of smoking on respiratory symptoms. It could help governments in Latin America take vigorous action to deter young people from starting smoking.