My name is Breda Flood and I was diagnosed with asthma in 1983. Since then keeping on top of my symptoms and keeping well has been a constant struggle - but I'm happy to say that, with the help of the Asthma Society of Ireland, I am in control of my asthma.
The long term effects of smoking are clear. But for people with asthma the adverse effect of breathing in tobacco smoke is immediate - it restricts the airways, making it difficult to breathe and causing an asthma attack. More than one person each week dies in Ireland from an asthma attack and thousands more are hospitalised each year.
For people with asthma smoking is the most dangerous trigger of symptoms. Prior to the introduction of the smoking ban, restaurants and particularly pubs were no go areas for me. Nowadays, getting in or out of a premises poses a significant risk to my health since the smokers assemble outside doorways!
Personally, I have needed emergency care as a result of breathing in second hand smoke at a hurling match. This took place where people were smoking a couple of rows below me – so think of the effect it has when a parent of a child with asthma smokes in the home or in the car.
I worked for many years as a primary school teacher and principal in Wexford. I often witnessed people smoking while sitting in their cars with their children before school opened. Around on in every five children in Ireland has asthma and around one in every four people in Ireland smoke, meaning children with asthma inevitably come in contact with tobacco smoke – in parks, outside schools, in the home and in cars. These same children are the ones being targeted by the tobacco industry with novel packaging and branding.
Many people who smoke don’t notice the damage they’re doing until it’s too late. But people with asthma can feel the effects of smoking on their breathing instantly. But, despite the risks, many people with asthma and parents of children with asthma smoke. Smoking with asthma may seem crazy to you or me, but we know that tobacco is so addictive it can override logic and even someone’s desire to quit.