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Respiratory Disease Statistics

The Prevalence of COPD

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Updated July 12, 2004

Respiratory disease is an all too common side effect of smoking. The occasional smoker's cough is often the first signal of trouble in the lungs. Chronic bronchitis usually follows, and if left unchecked, the end result can be emphysema. Cigarette smoke is toxic, and hard on the lungs.
  • In 2001, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in more than 118,000 deaths. More than 90% of these deaths were attributed to smoking.
  • According to the American Cancer Society's second Cancer Prevention Study, female smokers were nearly 13 times as likely to die from COPD as women who had never smoked. Male smokers were nearly 12 times as likely to die from COPD as men who had never smoked.
  • About 10 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is consistently among the top 10 most common chronic health conditions.
  • Smoking is related to chronic coughing and wheezing among adults.
  • Smoking damages airways and alveoli of the lung, eventually leading to COPD.
  • Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to have upper and lower respiratory tract infections, perhaps because smoking suppresses immune function.
  • In general, smokers' lung function declines faster than that of nonsmokers.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2004
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