Smoking is the Leading Cause of COPD

Smoking accounts for 8 out of 10 COPD-related deaths, and 75% of all COPD cases occur in people with a history of smoking.

Helpful Highlights

  • To prevent COPD, stop smoking.

  • There are other risk factors for COPD, though smoking is the leading factor.

  • COPD can also occur in people who have never smoked.

  • COPD is not curable, and it is a progressive disease that will get worse over time.

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What can my loved one do?

  • STOP SMOKING

  • Avoid secondhand smoke

  • Stay up-to-date with vaccinations (flu, pneumonia, COVID-19)

  • Use appropriate protective equipment if exposed to air pollutants

  • Get regular check-ups

What can I do to help my loved one?

  • Help them to quit smoking

    • Talk to their provider about smoking cessation programs

    • Do not purchase cigarettes or other tobacco products for them (and encourage other family and friends to follow)

    • Consider nicotine replacement aids instead (patches, gum)

    • Figure out craving distractions that work for them

  • Help them stay up-to-date on vaccinations

  • Accompany them to their appointments when possible

One hundred million (100,000,000) deaths were caused by tobacco in the 20th century, and it is estimated that there will be up to one billion (1,000,000,000) deaths attributed to tobacco use in the 21st century. COPD has become a global public health crisis with smoking as the primary factor. The most effective available treatment for COPD is smoking cessation.

Using other tobacco products like e-cigarettes and cigars also increases the risk of developing COPD.

38% of the nearly 16 million U.S. adults diagnosed with COPD report current smoking.

People living in poverty and people living in rural areas are more likely to develop COPD.

Other COPD risk factors

These risk factors, especially when coupled with current smoking or a history of smoking, can significantly increase the risk of developing COPD, and will hasten its progression for those who already have it.

  • Environmental or occupational exposure: Ongoing and long-term exposure to chemicals, dust, and fumes

  • Air pollution: Long-term exposure to poor air quality of particulate matter PM 2.5 and nitrogen dioxides (motor vehicles, factories, powerplants, wood burning, and wildfires)

  • A history of childhood respiratory infections

  • Smoke exposure from coal- or wood-burning stove

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke

  • People with a history of asthma

  • People who have underdeveloped lungs  

  • Those who are age 40 and older (lung function declines as we age)

  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AATD) deficiency: A genetic or inherited condition that affects the body’s ability to produce a protein (Alpha-1) that protects the lungs

  • Lack of access to healthcare

COPD in non-smokers

Although COPD is referred to as a "smoker’s disease" because smoking is the main risk factor for developing COPD, people who have never smoked may also develop COPD. As many as 1 in 4 Americans with COPD have never smoked cigarettes and developed the disease through one or more of the above risk factors.

RESOURCES

CDC - Smoking & COPD

Lanioado-Laborin, R. (2009). Smoking and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Parallel epidemics of the 21st century. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(1), 209-224. doi: 10.3390/ijerph6010209

No content in this app, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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