The connection between smoking and COPD

Not every person who smokes develops chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and not every person who has COPD is a smoker.

However, many people with COPD do have a history of smoking. In fact, the American Lung Association reports that 85 to 90 percent of all COPD cases are caused by smoking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking also accounts for up to 8 out of 10 COPD-related deaths.

If you have COPD and you smoke, it’s time to quit. Getting information from your doctor, attending counseling sessions, and taking medications can help.

If you’re a smoker who’s been diagnosed with COPD, it’s natural to feel a range of negative emotions, including discouragement, anger, or depression. Since the damage to your lungs has already been done, you may think you might as well go ahead and enjoy your cigarettes. You may even think that smoking won’t make any difference now.

Although understandable, this reasoning is far from the truth. Even if you already have COPD, you can still benefit from quitting. In fact, smoking cessation is the only reliable treatment to slow the progression of your COPD and help you maintain the lung function you have left.

Stopping smoking can also help you avoid serious flare-ups of your condition.

COPD flare-ups are frightening and dangerous. They can lead to negative outcomes, such as hospitalization, treatment failure, and even death. It’s important to do everything in your power to avoid them. That includes tossing your cigarettes, pipes, and cigars.

If you’re a smoker with COPD, you can noticeably improve your health by putting your cigarettes away for good.

According to statistics reported by the CDC for 2015, nearly 7 out of 10 adult smokers in the United States wanted to quit. Many have difficulty actually kicking the habit. However, several strategies are available to help you quit for good.

Healthcare provider intervention

This isn’t the classic kind of intervention, where your loved ones plead with you to quit. A healthcare provider intervention is a brief, more casual conversation with your nurse or doctor. They calmly explain how smoking interacts with your current health problems to lower your quality of life. They also explain how smoking puts you at risk of life threatening complications.

People who’ve had this type of interaction have a small but significant advantage when it comes to quitting smoking. If you want to quit, ask your doctor about the benefits of stopping smoking and the risks of continuing. Learning the facts may give you the motivation you need to become tobacco-free.

Group counseling

Group counseling gives you the best of both worlds. You can listen to experienced speakers who offer advice and techniques for quitting and managing relapses. You can also take advantage of the group setting to give and receive support from others who are in your shoes. Seeing others in your group stop smoking successfully can help strengthen your own resolve.

If group counseling doesn’t appeal to you, ask your doctor about one-on-one counseling options. The CDC offers free help in the form of a helpline (800-QUIT-NOW, or 800-784-8669) and an online guide.


The most popular kind of medication regimens for people who want to stop smoking are nicotine replacement therapies. Nicotine replacement therapies can help you manage your withdrawal symptoms and control your cravings. You can get nicotine replacement from chewing gum, patches that adhere to your skin, lozenges, and even sprays.

If the replacement therapy isn’t helping as much as you’d like, you might want to talk to your doctor about adding an antidepressant. This type of combined therapy has been shown to help some people quit.

Cold turkey

Some people are able to put the cigarettes down and walk away without any medications or support groups. This suggests the cold turkey approach can work, but you have a better chance of succeeding if you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Whether you use counseling or medications or try to quit cold turkey, these tips can help:

  • Set a “quit date” and stick to it.
  • Avoid stressful situations or situations that lead to cravings.
  • Expect withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety, irritability, depression, and food cravings. Plan in advance how you will handle the symptoms, and remember they won’t last forever.
  • Make a list of the things you want from life. It’s not enough to simply stop a behavior. For lasting change to occur, it’s important to replace the negative behavior with a healthier one.
  • Seek support from friends and family. Turn to them when you feel close to relapse.
  • Surround yourself with people you trust and who will give you support. Support others who are trying to quit.

Giving up a longtime habit like cigarette smoking isn’t fun or easy, but it can dramatically slow the progression of your COPD and enhance your quality of life.

Schedule an appointment to speak with your doctor about quitting. Ask them about the benefits of stopping your tobacco use and the risks of continuing. They can also give you information about smoking cessation support, such as counseling services and medications. Recruit your friends and family members to support you. And remember: Avoiding tobacco will get easier with time.