Smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Smoking is also a trigger for COPD flare-ups. Smoking damages the air sacs, airways, and the lining of your lungs. Injured lungs have trouble moving enough air in and out, so it’s hard to breathe.
Things that make COPD worse are called triggers. Knowing what your triggers are and how to avoid them can help you feel better. Smoking is a trigger for many people who have COPD. Smoking can cause an exacerbation, or flare-up, of your symptoms.
You do not have to be a smoker for smoking to cause harm. Exposure to someone else's smoking (called secondhand smoke) is also a trigger for COPD flare-ups.
Smoking damages your lungs. When you have COPD and smoke, your lungs will get damaged more rapidly than if you were to stop smoking.
Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to protect your lungs and keep your COPD symptoms from getting worse. This can help you stay more active and enjoy life.
Tell your friends and family about your goal to quit. Take a break from people and situations that make you want to smoke. Keep busy with other things. Take it one day at a time.
Ask your doctor or nurse to help you quit. There are many ways to quit smoking, including:
It is not easy, but anyone can quit. Newer medicines and programs can be very helpful.
List the reasons why you want to quit. Then set a quit date. You may need to try quitting more than once. And that's OK. Keep trying if you don't succeed at first. The more times you try to quit, the more likely you are to be successful.
Secondhand smoke will trigger more COPD flare-ups and cause more damage to your lungs. So you need to take steps to avoid secondhand smoke.
Setting these rules can:
If there are smokers at your workplace, ask someone about policies regarding if and where smoking is allowed. Tips to help with secondhand smoke at work are:
Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). Global strategy for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Vancouver (WA): Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD); 2013.
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Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, Weinberger SE, Hanania NA, Criner G, van der Molen T, et al. Diagnosis and Management of Stable Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Clinical Practice Guideline Update from the American College of Physicians, American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society, and European Respiratory Society. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155(3):179-191.
Updated by: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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