Smoking & Colitis | Part 3: Is it Just Blowing Smoke?

Colitis and Cigarettes: Part 3

Part 3: Is it Just Blowing Smoke?

This is Part 3 of a three-part story of colitis and cigarettes. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Now that I have colitis, I’ve discovered another interesting twist to the whole smoking thing… statistics have linked quitting smoking to onset of ulcerative colitis. In fact, the nicotine patch has been used as an experimental treatment for colitis. Some research has even linked smoking-related carbon monoxide exposure with anti-inflammatory properties as well. This is certainly some interesting data, but the relationship between smoking and colitis is not well understood. It all seems a little strange to me… but also a bit suspicious when I look back. I came down with acute colitis about four years after quitting (although I am pretty sure I had symptoms for several years before they got bad enough to require attention).

While the timing certainly seems conspicuous, I really have no idea if my colitis is related to smoking (or quitting)—but frankly, I don’t want to know. It doesn’t matter, because either way I don’t want to go back to smoking. When we quit, my wife and I had agreed we’d allow ourselves to smoke on our birthdays. I think that’s related to the fact that we quit six days before my 29th, and subconsciously I wanted to feel like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It definitely helped take the edge off the ‘forever’ concept. But my birthday came and I was too afraid I’d fall back into the habit, so I didn’t smoke. And I haven’t since. And I don’t want to smoke anymore.

So I have no ulterior motive when considering the colitis connection as an excuse to take up smoking again… but I can definitely understand how easy it would be for a former smoker with colitis to start again or for a smoker who is considering quitting to use this information as justification to not quit. Certainly it shouldn’t be an excuse to start smoking—Even if Dr. House did prescribe cigarettes to a man with colitis. (Season one, episode 5, in case you’re curious, it’s rather interesting from an IBD patient’s perspective—wohoo we’re famous.)

Real doctors adamantly (and rightfully) assert that a colitis diagnosis is definitely NOT a good reason to start or resume smoking. The dangers of smoking far outweigh the complications of IBD. It may sometimes seem that to continue or resume smoking would make things better… but it definitely just seems that way.

With or without colitis I would never go back to smoking. And if a guy whose nickname used to be “Smoker “can quit, then so can you. Godspeed. 

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About the Author

Andrew Tubesing is an acclaimed advocate and humorist on the subject of inflammatory bowel disease.