Smoking and COPD

Smoking and COPD

Nothing seems more natural than breathing. It is something we do every day without having to consciously think about it.

However, for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), this once simple task has become a challenge. COPD is a progressive and incurable lung disease characterized by chronic obstructed airflow from the lungs that interferes with normal breathing. It includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or both. While COPD is treatable, it is not fully reversible and is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

The three primary symptoms of COPD are:

  • shortness of breath
  • chronic cough
  • sputum, a mixture of saliva and mucus, production

The most common early symptom of COPD is shortness of breath on exertion.

There are many risk factors associated with developing COPD, including exposure to dust and chemicals in the workforce, secondhand smoke, wood smoke, frequent lung infections as a child and biomass fuels used for cooking. Genetics also plays a small role.

However, the most common risk factor for COPD is cigarette smoking. By avoiding smoking, an individual decreases the accelerated decline of lung function and their chance of developing COPD. 

Some other health benefits of stopping smoking include:

  • Reduced risk of developing some lung diseases.
  • Decreased respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. While these symptoms may not disappear, they do not continue to progress at the same rate among people who quit compared with those who continue to smoke.
  • Lowered risk for lung cancer and many other types of cancer.
  • Reduced heart disease risk within 1 to 2 years of quitting. 

If you or a loved one would like to stop smoking, call the West Virginia Tobacco Cessation Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), a free service to all West Virginia residents 18 and older. By calling, you can receive:

  • One-on-one proactive coaching for tobacco users who are ready to quit.
  • Four free proactive coaching calls and unlimited reactive calls.
  • Free educational materials and a personalized quit plan.
  • Eight weeks of free Nicotine Replacement Therapy, which includes patches, gum and lozenges.

If you would like to find out more about COPD or need help managing it, please call Marshall Internal Medicine at 304-691-1000.


Tina Toler, FNP-BC

Tina Toler, a board-certified family nurse practitioner, serves in Marshall Internal Medicine’s Pulmonary Department. She received her undergraduate and master’s degrees in nursing from Marshall University.