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Quitting is only way for COPD sufferers to prolong lives

The Asthma Foundation
Media Release
World COPD Day
19 November

Quitting smoking is the only way for COPD sufferers to prolong their lives

Over 200,000 New Zealanders suffer from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a chronic lung disease that is usually caused by smoking. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death after cancer, heart disease and stroke but is almost entirely preventable by avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke. This World COPD Day the message is that suffers who smoke need to quit now.

“Stopping smoking is the only action a person with COPD can take to extend their life,” Dr Kyle Perrin, medical director of the Asthma Foundation says, “all other actions will only offer a better quality of life – that is why it is so important that people stop smoking sooner rather than later.”

Symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, cough and phlegm. People often ignore these symptoms until they are severe. Whether you have mild or severe disease, it’s not too late to stop smoking to improve your breathing.

“Every day, week, month and year you go without smoking, your health improves”, says Quitline’s chief executive Paula Snowden.

“When you quit, your body starts to repair itself straightaway, in just eight hours your heart rate slows down to normal and your blood pressure goes down. In just three to five days your sense of smell and taste begins to improve,” she continues.

World COPD Day is organised by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), which raises awareness of COPD through events and activities. This year’s World COPD Day theme is ‘It’s not too late’.

Quitline has a range of quit smoking services and support, which include phone, online, blogs andtext as well as access to low cost patches, gum and lozenges. “Our services are free and you can use us as many times as you like. We’re here to help you stay smokefree and we’ll be with you as long as it takes.” Call Quitline on 0800 778 778, or go online to

The Asthma Foundation urges people with breathing problems or coughing to visit their doctor to get tested for COPD because early detection can slow the progression of the disease and improve quality of life. You can also contact your local asthma society or trust.

World COPD Day is an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) to improve awareness and care of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) around the world.

Notes for Editors
What is COPD?
When we breathe, air travels from our nose and mouth down through our airways to our lungs. Having COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) means that your airways are obstructed and the tissue inside the lungs is damaged. Those with COPD have shortness of breath, usually with exertion, and a productive, phlegmy cough - making many normal tasks difficult. They can take a long time to recover due to poor lung function.

COPD has a substantial impact on the health of New Zealanders. Although often undiagnosed, it affects an estimated 15 percent of the adult population over the age of 45 years (at least 200,000 New Zealanders). There is no cure for COPD however not smoking, working with their health team and pulmonary rehabilitation can enable people to still lead a good life.

The majority of the burden (80%) of COPD arises from tobacco smoking. New Zealand has the second highest rate of hospitalisations due to COPD in the OECD. The WHO predicts deaths from COPD will increase by more than 30 percent in the next 10 years unless there are interventions to cut risks, particularly preventing exposure to tobacco smoke.

COPD facts and figures:

• More than 85 percent of the burden of COPD arises from tobacco smoking, with contributions from cannabis use and dust exposure in the workplace.
• COPD is an irreversible disease but is almost entirely preventable by avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke. Over 15 percent of all smokers are likely to become affected.
• COPD is estimated to cost up to $192 million in direct health care costs each year.
• In 2013 COPD was responsible for an estimated 11,000 hospital admissions.
• COPD accounts for about 200,000 GP visits and more than 453,300 prescribed medications.
• COPD afflicts over 50 million people worldwide and causes nearly 3 million deaths every year.
• Deaths from COPD are projected to increase by more than 30 percent in the next 10 years.
The Burden of COPD in New Zealand summary report:
For regional reports, the Asthma Foundation has 15 affiliated societies and trusts around New Zealand who provide support, advice and education to their local communities.
About the Asthma Foundation
The Asthma Foundation is New Zealand’s sector authority on asthma, COPD and other respiratory illnesses.
We advocate to government and raise awareness of respiratory illnesses, fund research for better treatments and educate on best practice. We provide resources on our website and support our affiliated asthma societies and trusts in providing education, support and advice.
For more information, visit the Asthma Foundation’s website at or go to

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