Ethanol is claimed to have a specific damaging effect on the lung and to be at least partially responsible for pulmonary dysfunction in alcoholics. Adequate allowance for the damaging effects of cigarette smoking has not, however, been made hitherto. Pulmonary function studies were undertaken in 27 alcoholic subjects. Although there was a high prevalence of symptoms and abnormalities of pulmonary function, these were largely confined to current smokers: most of those who had never smoked and the ex-smokers who were symptom free and had normal pulmonary function. A case controlled study of alcoholics and matched controls showed no significant difference in pulmonary function between the two groups. It is concluded that the high prevalence of respiratory disease in alcoholics is largely attributable to their smoking habits: no evidence of a specific pulmonary toxic effect of ethanol was identified in the study.
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