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Even before a person is old enough to buy a pack of cigarettes or drink an alcoholic beverage, most are exposed to this kind of stuff—whether it is peer pressure or one's own curiosity. Smoking is extremely harmful to the lungs and alcohol, if consumed, should only be consumed in moderation. For a person with CF, smoking is even more dangerous since lung function is already compromised. Smoking should be avoided at all costs. Alcohol may interfere with many medications. Before you have alcoholic beverages, it's a good idea to talk with your CF care team. They can provide more information based on your individual needs. Below are some general things to keep in mind regarding smoking and alcohol use.1-3

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People with CF should not, under any circumstance, smoke cigarettes, a pipe, or cigars. Aside from all the reasons why smoking is harmful in general, here's why it's especially dangerous for people with CF:

  • Smoking irritates lung tissue. This results in more coughing and mucus production
  • You will not be considered for a lung transplant if you smoke

Second-hand smoke2

Second-hand smoke is a mix of chemicals given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar. This mix of chemicals is also breathed out by the smoker. It can fill the air of enclosed spaces, such as cars, homes, apartments, bars, casinos, and restaurants. Second-hand smoke lingers in enclosed areas for hours, days, and sometimes even longer. Being around second-hand smoke is harmful. Second-hand smoke:

  • Irritates the lungs and sinuses. This causes inflammation or swelling
  • Makes people feel like they have bad allergies, cold symptoms, or asthma
  • Increases lung illness
  • Causes children to be more prone to ear infections
  • Damages the airways and air sacs in the lungs
  • Dries nasal passages (inside of the nose)
  • Shuts down the cilia. Cilia are the tiny hair-like cells on the lining of the airways. Cilia help remove mucus from the lungs and sinuses
  • Stops the lungs from growing and working well

Why is second-hand smoke worse for people with CF?2

Lungs with CF have thicker mucus. The cilia have less fluid to help them move. When the cilia are weakened by smoke, they are even less able to keep the lungs clean. People with CF already have some trouble gaining weight, and second-hand smoke can decrease the sense of smell and taste. This could possibly decrease their appetites.


Your CF care team can provide you with more information regarding alcohol use based on your individual needs. Here are some general ways alcohol can affect a person with CF:

  • Decreases lung function. This is because alcohol is a depressant. Depressants can make you breathe slower
  • Decreases coughing. This can make it hard to clear mucus from your airways
  • Damages your liver over time
  • Disrupts sleep cycles. You need sleep to fight infections and maintain overall health
  • Reacts with some medications. This can harm your body. Talk to your doctor about medication you are taking before drinking
  • Alcohol can affect blood glucose control. This can be a problem for those with CFRD
  • Increases dehydration

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References: 1. Living with CF. North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System website. http://www.cfcareli.com/livingwithcf_adults.php. Accessed May 1, 2016. 2. CF and exposure to second hand smoke. Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website. http://m.childrenshospitalofillinois.org/pdfs/specialty-services/cf/general-resources/CF-and-Exposure-to-Second-Hand-Smoke.pdf. Accessed May 1, 2016.
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