New York State Department of Health Recognizes November As Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Awareness Month

COPD Includes Chronic Lung Diseases Like Emphysema, Some Types of Asthma, and Chronic Bronchitis

Smoking is Main Cause of COPD; Support for Those Who Want to Quit is Available & Affordable in NYS

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 27, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health recognizes November as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month. COPD describes chronic lung diseases that include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and some types of refractory (severe) asthma. Chronic lower respiratory diseases, including COPD and asthma, were the fifth leading cause of death in New York State in 2020, according to the most recent 2022 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) report.

"Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, COPD, is a serious lung disease that can permanently damage the lungs, making early diagnosis and treatment even more important," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "The most important thing people can do to prevent COPD is to quit smoking, even better, never start smoking. For those who need help quitting, I encourage you to reach out to a doctor and learn about smoking cessation options available in New York State."

About 15.7 million adults in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COPD, with more than 900,000 of those living in New York State. COPD is commonly misdiagnosed and many people who have COPD may not be diagnosed until the disease is advanced. Smoking – both current smoking and smoking in the past – is the main cause of COPD.

Data from the most recent 2022 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5.3 percent of adult New Yorkers have COPD, while the median national prevalence was 6.7 percent. Data from that BRFSS report also found COPD prevalence varies by smoking status, with 13.1 percent among people who currently smoke, 9.5 percent among people who used to smoke, and 2 percent among those who never smoked.

While smoking is the main cause of COPD, it's not the only cause. As many as one in four people with COPD never smoked. Other risk factors for COPD include long-term exposure to air pollution including secondhand smoke, and occupational exposure to chemical fumes dust. Certain respiratory infections may also contribute to diagnosed cases, as well as a rare, inherited disorder called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency (AATD). People with COPD are at increased risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer, and a variety of other conditions.

Symptoms of COPD can develop slowly over time. As symptoms worsen, they can limit the ability to do everyday activities.

COPD symptoms include the following:

  • Chronic or frequent coughing and wheezing
  • Excess phlegm, mucous, or sputum production
  • Shortness of breath or chest tightness, especially with physical activity
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty taking a deep breath
  • Frequent respiratory infections

Lifestyle choices and treatment may slow down the progression of COPD, however, the damage to the lungs is permanent and cannot be reversed. For those who smoke, the most important thing they can do is quit.

For information and assistance with quitting smoking, vaping, and other tobacco products, contact the New York State Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NYQUITS (1-866-697-8487), or text 'Quit Now' to 333888.

It's also important for people with COPD to avoid lung infections and stay up to date on recommended respiratory vaccines to prevent the flu, COVID, and pneumonia. There is a vaccine available for adults 60 years and older to protect against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which can be administered in New York pharmacies without a prescription.

More information on COPD can be found here.