MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: Can a lung recover from the black tar deposits cause by cigarette smoking?

Date: Sun Apr 4 19:45:44 1999
Posted By: Richard Mondak, Staff, Physician Assistant, PA Provider Services
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 922482750.Me

     Excellent Question!! And the answer is not so excellent... (but not 
so bad either) for smokers that is... Lungs can recover SOME of the 
previous healthy appearance and normal function, depending upon how long 
and how much the person has smoked.  Of course, the more one smokes, the 
lower the chances are for recovery.  Medical Professionals base the 
smoker's chances for improvement on several factors, but one of the more 
important factors is known as "Pack Years"(P-Y).
     If you multiply the number of packs of cigarettes smoked each day by 
the number of years the person has been smoking, the result is the "Pack 
Years".  For example: Mr "C" is 37 years old and smoked two pack of 
cigarettes for 19 years.  Therefore, Mr "C" has a 38 PackYear smoking 
history.  This is not good at all! When the "P-Y" number is more than the 
age of the person, the more likely there is to be damage to the lungs.  
Try to figure the "P-Y" for this person:  Jack is 20 years old and says 
that he started smoking one pack per day at age 13. When he was 18 years 
old, he started smoking two packs per day. 
     It is important to remember that only after a person STOPS SMOKING 
(not just says that he or she is "trying to quit" or "smoking less" do the 
chances for the lungs -and the rest of the body- improve. The best advice 
is to NEVER, NEVER EVER start to use tobacco in any form and remember what 
how the lung examples looked!  Pink lungs are cool, tarry lungs are for 
For more information on the internet:
(By the way, Jack has NINE (9) PackYears)

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