Many People With Obstructive Lung Disease Keep Smoking

Megan Brooks

January 07, 2015

Difficulty breathing due to obstructive lung disease isn't enough to keep some people from smoking cigarettes.

During 2007 to 2012, almost half (46.2%) of US adults aged 40 to 79 years with lung obstruction were current smokers — more than double the smoking rate for those without lung obstruction, according to a new data brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) National Center for Health Statistics.

Lung obstruction is characterized by blocked airflow, shortness of breath, and difficulty exhaling. The most common types are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

According to the 2007 to 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, about 41% of adults with mild lung obstruction and about 55% with moderate or worse obstructive lung disease were current smokers, with men and women fairly equally represented.

"Notable" differences were seen in smoking rates by race and Hispanic origin, report first author Ryne Paulose-Ram, PhD, and colleagues at the CDC.

Among adults aged 40 to 79 with mild lung obstruction, a far greater percentage of non-Hispanic black adults (62.6%) were current cigarette smokers compared with non-Hispanic white (38.2%) or Hispanic (31.9%) adults. With moderate or worse lung obstruction, however, a significantly greater percentage of non-Hispanic white adults (61.7%) smoked cigarettes compared with non-Hispanic black (45.2%) and Hispanic (24.9%) adults.

Age and education also mattered. A greater percentage of adults aged 40 to 59 years with lung obstruction, overall and at each severity level, smoked cigarettes than those aged 60 to 79 years (50.8% vs 38.6%). Smoking rates in adults with lung obstructive disease declined with increasing education level. Nearly two of three adults with any lung obstruction and less than a high school degree were currently smoking, compared with 53.2% of high school graduates and 36.0% of those with some college education.

The authors note that smoking tobacco "increases respiratory symptoms, lung function loss, and the rate of lung function decline. The benefits of smoking cessation are numerous for all adults and especially for those with lung obstruction."


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