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COPD is the fourth largest killer of Australians and smoking is the most important risk factor for COPD. 2
When you inhale cigarette smoke, it bypasses the filtering action of the nose and damages the tissues of the lungs, leading to overproduction of mucus, among other things. Chronic bronchitis occurs when the airways in your lungs have become narrow and partly clogged with mucus. 3
People who suffer from chronic bronchitis cough more and experience breathlessness for months or even years. They are also more at risk of developing chest infections and pneumonia. 1
Tobacco smoke also damages the air sacs in the lungs. Over time this leads to progressive loss of lung function and a condition known as emphysema. One sign of emphysema is shortness of breath. As the disease progresses, breathing becomes a major effort and may require supplementary oxygen. 3 Most people who smoke around 20 cigarettes per day will have some degree of emphysema. 4
There are about 124,000 Australians living with emphysema and 567,000 Australians have chronic bronchitis, a total of 665,000 Australians with emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis (COPD). 5
Compared to non-smokers, someone who has ever smoked is more than five times as likely to develop emphysema/chronic bronchitis, and current smokers are more than six times as likely to suffer from emphysema/chronic bronchitis. 6
Smoking causes 82% of emphysema/chronic bronchitis among males and 76% among females. 7 However, a more recent report by the U.S. Surgeon General attributes smoking as the cause of more than 90% of deaths due to COPD. 8
Decided to quit smoking? For help, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or call the Quitline on 131 848 or visit the Quitline web site.
- The Australian Lung Foundation, COPD - Chronic Bronchitis & Emphysema , Fact Sheet, 2002. http://www.lungnet.com.au
- The COPD - X Plan: Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease 2005. (This link was valid at the time of submission.) The Australian Lung Foundation. www.copdx.org.au/guidelines/index.asp (This link was valid at the time of submission.)
- American Council on Science and Health. Cigarettes: What the warning label doesn't tell you. Second edition. New York, American Council on Science and Health, 2003.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health consequences of smoking: chronic obstructive lung disease. A report of the Surgeon General . U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office on Smoking and Health, 1984. http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/NN/B/C/C/S/_/nnbccs.pdf
- ABS National Health Survey 2001 (AIHW analysis).
- Holman & Armstrong et al. (1990). The quantification of drug caused morbidity and mortality in Australia 1988 . Canberra: AGPS.
- English & Holman et al. (1995). The quantification of drug caused morbidity and mortality in Australia 1992 edition . Canberra. AGPS.
- The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General . Atlanta, Georgia. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004. www.cdc.gov/tobacco/sgr/sgr_2004/index.htm (This website link was valid at the time of submission)
- Smoking Cessation Guidelines for Australian General Practice . 2004 Edition.