My Thoughts About Smoking in CF Families
Smoking is a risky behavior that can cause long term health problems for both healthy people and people living with CF.1 Even with all the wealth of information about the harmful effects of smoking, people continue to smoke. Add CF into the mix, smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke in families can be a hard situation to navigate when you work everyday to breathe.
Do you have smokers in your family? How does it make you feel as a person with CF?
The effects of smoking and secondhand smoke
The negative effects of smoking and secondhand smoke are well documented. Smoking causes heart and lung disease and increases the risk of stroke, cancer, and diabetes. In addition, secondhand smoke causes damage to the lungs and reduces lung function much like cystic fibrosis. In fact, in one study, smoking was shown to decrease CFTR protein regulation in the cells by as much as 60 percent. That’s why all people living with CF are warned against the negative effects of smoking and secondhand smoking.1,2
My experience with smoking in families
Growing up in the 90s, a lot of my family smoked cigarettes. Even though I have CF, I had parents, siblings, and extended family members who smoked at one point or another. I think it was a lot more commonplace back then and less stigmatized than it is now. Thankfully, many of them have managed to quit but it still shocks me when I think about it now as an adult.
Smoking in families while having a family member with CF can be a difficult, and frankly, ironic situation to navigate. You may feel anger, sadness, resentment, etc. towards family members who choose to smoke. It can be painful to think about how hard you work to keep your lungs healthy and how they in contrast are choosing to damage their lungs. I think living with CF, you have a right to feel that way.
On the other hand, it may not bother you at all. You may believe smoking is their own choice with their own body and you are OK with that. I think either way it’s important to say how you feel if you are around people who smoke and it is bothering you.
Smoking is their own battle
There’s been times at family parties where I happen to be on IV antibiotics and my family members are huddled around smoking that I feel particularly upset about it. In their defense, they never smoke around me and always outside. However, it’s moments like this I want to stomp over, snatch the cigarettes from their smoke-filled mouths and scream, “DON’T YOU GET IT?! It sucks fighting to breathe and you are choosing that!”
Then the rational and empathetic part of my brain kicks in and I remember that smoking is not only a bad habit but also an addiction. Like a lot of people who battle addictions, it’s not exactly what they want to be doing. Many people try to quit over and over again and fail. For that reason, I try to give them understanding and remember it’s not about hurting me or my CF when they smoke; it’s about their own battle. We all have our own battles.
Have you experienced smoking or second-hand smoke with CF? What are your thoughts on handling it?
How has CF impacted your decision to become a parent?