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Preventing Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Smoking is usually the cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Nearly 90 percent of people with the condition currently smoke or did so in the past. NYU Langone’s Tobacco Cessation Programs can give you the tools and support you need to quit.

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Exposure to pollution, woodburning stoves, and irritants like dust and chemical fumes from paint or cleaning products may also increase your risk. If your job or lifestyle frequently exposes you to these irritants, consider avoiding them as often as possible and wearing a mask at work.

Research suggests that genetic factors play a role in a person’s susceptibility to the condition, since only about 20 percent of smokers develop COPD. A small percentage of people with COPD have an inherited condition called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, which causes progressive lung damage.


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Young children, who breathe at a higher rate than adults, are very susceptible to the adverse effects of smoke exposure. The health of the entire family is improved by avoiding smoking in a child’s environment. Both secondhand and thirdhand cigarette smoke exposure are now recognized as concerns for young children. Thirdhand smoke exposure refers to the environmental contamination—such as the residue left on carpets, furniture, and other indoor surfaces—that results from smoking.

Our Research and Education in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.