Morning cough six times more likely to disappear if you stop smoking

It seems logical enough: if you stop smoking, there is every chance that certain tobacco-related complaints will improve or even disappear. Yet no long-term study has ever been undertaken to confirm or disprove this piece of folk wisdom. A cohort study to be published in April's European Respiratory Journal (ERJ) will now fill that gap.

Coughing, phlegm, spitting, shortness of breath and wheezing are some of the problems that many long-term smokers suffer every day. While folk wisdom dictates that the best way to put an end to all of this is to stop smoking, a review of the existing literature shows that this assumption is far from having been tested through serious studies. The reason is simple: very few scientific studies have attempted to evaluate the long-term spontaneous variation of various respiratory symptoms. Or, still less, the possible role of smoking cessation and prior exposure to industrial pollution.

So Tomas Eagan, who co-authors the ERJ study with his University of Bergen colleagues, has every reason to be proud when he emphasises that "this is the only study to look simultaneously at the effect on respiratory conditions of smoking cessation and exposure to industrial pollution". Indeed, this Norwegian study has examined, with all due scientific rigour, spontaneous remission levels for various respiratory conditions and the additional benefits of giving up smoking.

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