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Effects of Smoking and Emphysema


Since emphysema is a chronic lung condition, affecting at any time upwards of two million Americans mostly over the age of 50, it’s no surprise that smoking is a key culprit. In fact, cigarette smoking is the leading risk factor for emphysema. Roughly 100,000 Americans die from emphysema each year. [1]


Two Types of Treatment


Because of the critical causal link between smoking and emphysema, the first order of defense for patients still inhaling is to get them to quit smoking. For those who have already quit, treatments include exercise, oxygen therapy, medication, treatment of respiratory infections, and lung transplants.


More broadly, emphysema is categorized under the heading of COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is the fourth most common and rapidly increasing cause of death in the U.S., and in the case of emphysema, the disease sometimes is accompanied by either chronic bronchitis or chronic obstructive bronchitis. [2]


Other Causes


Four out of five cases of emphysema are the result of smoking. The remainder can be linked to second-hand cigarette smoke as well as other non-smoking factors such as pollution, workplace chemicals, and vehicle exhaust emissions. [3]


The symptoms are fairly obvious. Besides a shortness of breath and dry cough, emphysema patients will typically experience chronic fatigue and an enlarged chest. They may also have to deal with weight loss, excessive sweating, and fever or the dry chills.


A Very Bad Habit


Once upon a time, smoking was cool, iconic, and commonplace. But as the studies and statistics have shown, it’s a toxic habit, one that is quickly being researched and legislated away at the municipal level. The number of toxins associated with cigarette smoking is staggering; it’s 4,000.(4) The cost of smoking to American society is also enormous, at last count upwards of $96 billion annually on the medical front and $193 billion in lost U.S. workplace productivity. [5] And by virtue of the dangers of second-hand smoke, everyone who smokes is also foisting their bad habit upon those around them.



[1] National Institutes of Health
National Emphysema Treatment Trial

[2] University of Maryland Medical Center
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease-Complication

[3] Breathe California

[4] National Emphysema Foundation

[5] American Cancer Society
Tobacco: the True Cost of Smoking



Glossary of Terms

Causal Link:  a relationship between one event or action that precedes and initiates a second action or influences the direction, nature, or force of a second action.

Chronic Fatigue: refers to severe, continued tiredness that is not relieved by rest and is not directly caused by other medical conditions.
A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia

COPD: or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. “Progressive” means the disease gets worse over time.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Second-Hand Smoke: Environmental tobacco smoke that is inhaled involuntarily or passively by someone who is not smoking.


 Expert Opinion

Quote: “In the vast majority of people, smoking is the cause of emphysema. Exactly how smoking destroys the air sac linings in the lungs isn’t known. However, population studies show that smokers are about six times more likely to develop emphysema than nonsmokers.”

Source: Smoking Is a Major Cause of Emphysema WebMD


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