Study coughs up truth about smoking

A smoke screen does not hide the fatal disease Keystone

A study has found that nearly a third of all Swiss smokers over 40 years of age suffer from the fatal lung disease, COPD – twice as many as previously thought.

This content was published on June 2, 2005 - 17:09

Basel University Hospital, which carried out the research, estimates that as many as 450,000 people in the country have the disease.

Of the 25,000 smokers examined, 28 per cent were found to be suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which covers smoking-related conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

The authors of the study described the results as "shocking" and said that half of those with the disease were unaware of the seriousness of the risk to their health.

COPD is currently the fourth most common cause of death in Europe after heart disease, lung cancer and cerebrovascular disease, which can lead to strokes. COPD is expected to move up to third place by 2020.

The aim of the research was to make both doctors and patients more aware of the importance of early diagnosis and the need for proper treatment.

Medical advice

Sufferers are advised to quit smoking in order to slow the development of the incurable disease. They are often prescribed steroid-based medications which expand airways.

Typical symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, chronic coughing and thick sputum. Without treatment, victims gradually lose their ability to carry out simple activities.

In an advanced stage of the disease, sufferers may require artificial respiration.

Medical experts advise anyone unable to climb a flight of stairs without becoming short of breath to consult their doctor.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

According to the World Health Organization, there are 1.3 billion smokers worldwide.
A third of the Swiss population smoke.
Smoking is believed to kill five million people a year - 8,000 in Switzerland.

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