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Call Quitline on World COPD Day: COPD accounts for 30%of the burden of disease from smoking

Posted 16 Nov, 2021

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said few people who smoke realise that three in ten cases of COPD, a group of conditions that limit airflow and cause shortness of breath, are caused by smoking.

“Today is World COPD Day, so it’s a great time to remind people to quit smoking to avoid lung damage.  As a society, we’ve never been more aware of how critical it is to protect the health of our lungs,” she said. “Protecting your lungs means you can be physically active. It also means you are likely to be less impacted by viruses that affect the lungs, from COVID to the seasonal flu.”

According to the Aust Institute of Health and Welfare 2019 research, cancers accounted for 43% of the burden of disease from smoking, and almost two-thirds of this was from lung cancer (28% of total burden). COPD accounted for 30% of the burden, followed by cardiovascular diseases (17%) primarily related to coronary heart disease (10%) and stroke (3.1%).

COPD causes shortness of breath that gradually worsens over the years as smoking continues. At first, you may only notice a slight shortness of breath every morning and evening. Then a short walk may be enough to produce breathlessness and wheezing. With further damage, breathing may become a major effort. By the time you feel short of breath, the lungs are already damaged. *

COPD is a slow, progressive disease and commonly causes years of sickness and suffering. Patients with COPD are vulnerable to heart and lung failure and other potentially fatal conditions.

“The effects of COPD can be more severe in people who have an underlying lung disease, such as asthma and the damage to lung tissue in COPD is permanent and irreversible,” said Dr White.  

“The best way to prevent COPD is to stop smoking and the best way to stop smoking is with support from Quitline and with stop smoking medications, like the nicotine patch and gum,” said Dr White.

For more quitting advice, visit or call the Quitline on 13 7848 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday. Quitline is a culturally inclusive telephone service for all, including the LGBTIQ+ community. Aboriginal Quitline counsellors are also available.

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