Tobacco and Tuberculosis (TB)

Tobacco and Tuberculosis (TB)

About Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that is transmitted from person to person through the air, typically through coughing or sneezing. According to the World Health Organization, a total of 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020. Worldwide, TB is the 13th leading cause of death and the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19.[1]

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by a bacterium (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affects the lungs. It is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.[1]

Tobacco Use and Tuberculosis

  • Regular tobacco smoking doubles the risk that people who have been successfully treated for TB will develop TB again—a condition known as “recurrent” TB.[2]
  • Smoking increases the risk of contracting tuberculosis (TB), increases the risk of recurrent TB and impairs the response to treatment of the disease.[3]
  • Links between smoking and TB have long been suspected, but studies, coupled with reviews of older research, have provided definitive evidence of the connection. In addition to influencing the risk of contracting TB, developing the active form of the disease and ultimately dying from it, smoking is known to negatively influence the response to treatment and to increase the risk of relapse.[3]
  • Studies have shown that second-hand smoke increases the risk of contracting tuberculosis, especially in children.[3]
  • Tobacco smoking increases the risk of TB disease by a factor of 1.6. In 2020, 0.73 million new TB cases worldwide were attributable to smoking.[1]
  • People infected with the TB bacteria have a 5–10% lifetime risk of falling ill with TB. Those with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a higher risk of falling ill.[1]
  • Smoking adversely affects baseline disease severity, bacteriological response, treatment outcome and relapse in tuberculosis. Smoking cessation likely reduces relapse and secondary transmission.[4]

TB Control

TB is preventable and, in most cases, treatable. Infection control practices can help reduce the risk of TB transmission. Treatment of persons with latent TB infection can prevent the subsequent development of active TB, and TB disease can usually be cured by available anti-TB drugs.[5]

Current treatment regimens require a patient to take several drugs for at least six months and up to two years or more for some drug-resistant cases.[2]