Smoking remains the leading cause of COPD, which kills an estimated 3 million people every year, according to the World Health Organization. There is an estimated 392 million people living with COPD and three quarters of them live in low- and middle-income countries, WHO reports.
In addition, tobacco smoking accounts for over 70% of COPD cases in high-income countries. In low-and-middle-income-countries tobacco smoking accounts for 30–40% of COPD cases with household air pollution being the other major risk factor, WHO reports.
“As well as being a major cause of long-term disability, COPD is the third [most common] cause of death worldwide. COPD due to smoking remains a major problem globally and there is a growing epidemic of smokers in low- and middle-income countries as tobacco companies actively seek new customers. Around 80% of the world’s 1.3 billion tobacco users now live in LMIC. This will undoubtedly lead to an enormous increase in the global burden of COPD in the coming decades. We must act now to reduce smoking rates, to ensure people with COPD are diagnosed as early as possible and to ensure all patients around the world receive effective therapy.” said Prof. David MG Halpin, Consultant Physician & Professor of Respiratory Medicine, Member of GOLD Board of Directors and the Forum of International Respiratory Societies.
People living with COPD face a greater risk of developing lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes. The COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the challenges in accessing healthcare for these individuals. Quitting smoking will not only reduce your risk of COPD but also significantly reduces the risk of these severe coexisting conditions.
Findings show that tobacco smoke dramatically impacts children’s lung development, substantially increasing the risk of COPD later in life. The tobacco industry uses aggressive marketing strategies to promote nicotine and tobacco products which target children and adolescents.
“The scale of morbidity and mortality relating to COPD is a huge concern. We must prioritize smoking cessation, as well as inhalers and pulmonary rehabilitation. Sadly, inequities in access to diagnosis and treatment persist. We need to accelerate efforts to integrate COPD care into primary care in low- and middle-income countries where three quarters of people with COPD live.” explains Dr Bente Mikkelsen, WHO Director of Noncommunicable Diseases.
“Now is the time to act. Governments must implement effective tobacco control measures to protect the most vulnerable, particularly children. Protecting our youth and raising awareness about the tobacco industry’s deceptive marketing tactics is a top priority in the global fight against tobacco.” said Dr Ruediger Krech, WHO Director of Health Promotion.