With a 12% drop in deaths between 2000 and 2014, new data reveals fewer Americans are dying from COPD with the exception of black women and the middle-aged.

Report co-author Hanyu Ni said the figures aren’t unexpected, noting that “the declines in the COPD-related mortality are consistent with declines in the prevalence of current smoking for men and women in the United States.”

But, Ni added, the study only quantified death rate trends, and didn’t look at the reasons behind those trends. Ni is an associate director for science with the CDC’s division of vital statistics at the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.

Dr David Mannino, who’s with the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health, agreed that the study “results are not surprising.” He, too, cited the nationwide decline in smoking, the No. 1 cause of COPD.

“Smoking is the biggest factor driving COPD deaths in the US,” said Mannino, a professor of medicine in the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive disease of the airways that makes it difficult to breathe. COPD includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. It’s the third-biggest killer in the United States, and most people with COPD are current or past smokers, according to the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

For the study, Ni’s team reviewed data collected by the National Vital Statistics System between 2000 and 2014.

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