World COPD Day reminds us of the dangers of smoking

Smoking increases your risk of developing severe illness. 258722_01. Picture: UNSPLASHED

Quit Victoria is encouraging people who smoke to call Quitline to reduce the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, as they recognised World COPD Day on Wednesday.

COPD causes shortness of breath that gradually worsens over time, resulting in years of sickness and suffering.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said few people who smoke realise that three in 10 cases of COPD, a group of conditions that limit airflow and cause shortness of breath, are caused by smoking.

“As a society, we’ve never been more aware of how critical it is to protect the health of our lungs,” Dr White 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.

“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.”

Data from the City of Casey’s Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan in 2017 found that one in six adults (16.3 per cent) smoke and one in eight (13.3 per cent) smoke daily.

Numbers in Greater Dandenong were slightly higher, with 21 per cent of residents telling the 2017 Victorian Population Health Survey that they smoked.

According to the Aust Institute of Health and Welfare 2019 research, cancers accounted for 43 per cent of the burden of disease from smoking, and almost two-thirds of this was from lung cancer (28 per cent of total burden).

COPD accounted for 30 per cent of the burden, followed by cardiovascular diseases (17 per cent) primarily related to coronary heart disease (10 per cent) and stroke (3.1 per cent).

Sufferers of COPD may only notice a slight shortness of breath every morning and evening when they first experience symptoms.

Soon, a short walk may be enough to produce breathlessness and wheezing.

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.

For more quitting advice, visit or call the Quitline on 13 7848.