Many studies have been undertaken to reveal how tobacco smoke skews immune responses contributing to the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other lung diseases. Recently, environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) has been linked with asthma and allergic diseases in children. This review presents the most actual knowledge on exact molecular mechanisms responsible for the skewed inflammatory profile that aggravates inflammation, promotes infections, induces tissue damage, and may promote the development of allergy in individuals exposed to ETS. We demonstrate how the imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants resulting from exposure to tobacco smoke leads to oxidative stress, increased mucosal inflammation, and increased expression of inflammatory cytokines (such as interleukin (IL)-8, IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor α ([TNF]-α). Direct cellular effects of ETS on epithelial cells results in increased permeability, mucus overproduction, impaired mucociliary clearance, increased release of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, enhanced recruitment of macrophages and neutrophils and disturbed lymphocyte balance towards Th2. The plethora of presented phenomena fully justifies a restrictive policy aiming at limiting the domestic and public exposure to ETS.
Keywords: airway; allergy; asthma; atopy; children; cigarette; immunity; lung; smoke; tobacco.