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Open Access Research article

Results from a community-based program evaluating the effect of changing smoking status on asthma symptom control

Teresa To123*, Corinne Daly14, Rachel Feldman1 and Susan McLimont1

Author Affiliations

1 Child Health Evaluative Sciences, The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1X8, Canada

2 Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, G1 06-2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4N 3M5, Canada

3 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, 155 College Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5T 3M7, Canada

4 Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto, 1 King’s College Circle, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1A8, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:293  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-293

Published: 20 April 2012



Cigarette smoking has been associated with accelerated decline in lung function, increased health services use and asthma severity in patients with asthma. Previous studies have provided insight into how smoking cessation improves lung function among asthma patients, however, fail to provide measurable asthma symptom-specific outcomes after smoking cessation. The objective of this study was to measure the effect of changing smoking status on asthma symptom control and health services use in adults with asthma.


The study was conducted in eight primary care practices across Ontario, Canada participating in a community-based, participatory, and evidence-based Asthma Care Program. Patients aged 18 to 55 identified with physician-diagnosed mild to moderate asthma were recruited. In addition to receiving clinical asthma care, participants were administered a questionnaire at baseline and 12-month follow-up visits to collect information on demographics, smoking status, asthma symptoms and routine health services use. The effect of changing smoking status on asthma symptom control was compared between smoking groups using Chi-square and Fisher’s exact tests where appropriate. Mixed effect models were used to measure the impact of the change in smoking status on asthma symptom and health services use while adjusting for covariates.


This study included 519 patients with asthma; 11% of baseline smokers quit smoking while 4% of baseline non-smokers started smoking by follow-up. Individuals who quit smoking had 80% lower odds of having tightness in the chest (Odds ratio (OR) = 0.21, 95% CI: 0.06, 0.82) and 76% lower odds of night-time symptoms (OR = 0.24, 95% CI: 0.07, 0.85) compared to smokers who continued to smoke. Compared to those who remained non-smokers, those who had not been smoking at baseline but self-reported as current smoker at follow-up had significantly higher odds of chest tightness (OR = 1.36, 95% CI: 1.10, 1.70), night-time symptoms (OR = 1.55, 95% CI: 1.09, 2.20), having an asthma attack in the last six months (OR = 1.43, 95% CI: 1.17, 1.75) and visiting a walk-in clinic for asthma (OR = 4.57, 95% CI: 1.44, 14.49).


This study provides practitioners measurable and clinically important findings that associate smoking cessation with improved asthma control. Health practitioners and asthma programs can use powerful education messages to emphasize the benefits of smoking cessation as a priority to current smokers.