Smoking is the leading cause of chronic lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a great reason to quit.
Once you’ve quit smoking, you may start wondering about the tar that’s built up in your lungs. In fact, you may be asking yourself, “Does tar stay in your lungs forever?”
Why Tar Is a Problem for Your Lungs
Quitting smoking is one of the keys to stabilizing your lungs’ health.
However, the problem with smoking is that some of its effects can take a long time to recover from. For instance, your body may eventually remove the tar from smoking from your lungs, but it may take a long time.
Tar is what the toxic particles left behind in your lungs by burning tobacco are called, and this substance is one of the worst parts of smoking.
For one thing, tar contains many of the 7,000 harmful chemicals included in cigarettes, including carbon monoxide, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide.
Another problem with cigarette tar is it forms a physical layer in your lungs that damages the cilia in your respiratory tract.
Cilia are tiny hairs that line your trachea; their job is to catch and remove pollutants. However, the layer of tar from smoking damages the cilia and allows more pollutants to enter your lungs.
Once you’ve quit smoking, your cilia can take anywhere from 1 to 9 months to heal. However, the tar that caused the damage in the first place can take even longer to leave your lungs.
One source claims that for every 6 years you smoked, it takes 1 year to remove that amount of tar from your respiratory system.
This means it would take 6 years for the body to remove tar from the lungs of a person who has smoked for 36 years.
Christine Kingsley, APRN is the Health and Wellness Director at the Lung Institute where she focuses on providing helpful online resources for people looking for information on various lung diseases, breathing exercises, and healthy lifestyle choices. She advocates for holistic care that involves working with your doctor to explore all options including traditional and alternative care while focusing on diet and exercise as proactive measures.