Have you seen those anti-smoking ads on television where people appear to have a hole in their throats? Their voices are soft and raspy, or sometimes they have a little device they hold up to it before they speak, and their voices come out sounding a bit robotic. The people in the videos tell us about how they used to smoke – or in some cases never smoked at all but were exposed to secondhand smoke – and ended up with that condition as a result. What exactly is going on with these people, and how does smoking cause it?

That hole, which called a tracheostomy, is a surgically made opening that goes through the front of your neck and into your trachea, or windpipe. The purpose of the hole is to help people with damaged airways breathe. Depending on why you need it, it could be temporary, or you could be stuck with it forever. Your airways – the nose, mouth, larynx (voice box), trachea, and bronchial tubes – carry oxygen to your lungs and carbon dioxide out of them. If any of these pathways aren’t working correctly, the tracheostomy allows air to reach your lungs by way of a breathing tube that goes straight into the windpipe.

The procedure itself is fairly quick and safe, but living with a tracheostomy isn’t easy. You won’t be able to eat normally at first but will have to receive nutrients through an IV or feeding tube. Once it’s healed, you’ll have to learn how to swallow again before you can return to eating real food. You’re also going to have trouble speaking properly, because the tube prevents air from the lungs from passing over the voice box. Many people need speech therapy after the procedure. There is a valve that can be attached to the tracheostomy tube to help you speak, but it has to be removed and cleaned daily

One of the reasons people might need this procedure is if they have a condition that prevents them from coughing. Coughing is important because it protects the lungs and carries away mucus and bacteria. People who have trouble swallowing might also need tracheostomies.

SMOKING AND TRACHEOSTOMIES

So where does smoking come into play? Smoking can cause cancer of the throat, mouth, larynx, and lungs, all of which will interfere with the ability to breathe. It also causes various respiratory diseases like chronic bronchitis, which is a long-term (chronic) inflammation of the large airways, emphysema, which is a chronic lung condition that affects the air sacs in the lungs and can cause shortness of breath and coughing, among other symptoms.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.