Wed, Nov 16, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Health groups warn of chronic pulmonary illness from smoking

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Sun Yue, second right, joins Health Promotion Administration officials and representatives of health groups at a news conference in Taipei yesterday to promote awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ahead of World COPD Day.

Photo: Lin Yen-tung, Taipei Times

The Health Promotion Administration and health advocacy groups yesterday said that about 90 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) cases are caused by cigarette smoking, and even non-smokers can develop the condition from long-term exposure to secondhand smoke.

On the eve of the 14th Annual World COPD Day, the health administration held an event with the Taiwan Society of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and the anti-smoking John Tung Foundation, to raise public awareness about COPD — a term covering long-term lung conditions characterized by obstruction of the airways — such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema — which are often irreversible.

Administration Director Wang Ying-wei (王英偉) said that six of the 10 leading causes of death in Taiwan are associated with cigarette smoking, and the biggest cause of COPD, which kills on average one person every 10 seconds worldwide.

More than 5,000 people die from COPD every year in Taiwan, he said, adding that quitting smoking and avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke are the most effective ways to prevent the disease.

A nonsmoking woman in her 50s reported sudden onset of shortness of breath and was diagnosed with serious emphysema at a hospital emergency room, Taiwan Society of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine director Yu Chung-jen (余忠仁) said.

It turned out that her father, husband and son all smoked cigarettes and she had been inhaling their smoke, Yu said.

“Because the normal functioning of the lungs is obstructed, patients often suffer from coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing and excess mucus in the lungs,” Yu said, adding that studies have suggested that approximately 90 percent of COPD cases are caused by cigarette- smoking, but about 40 percent of patients continue to smoke after their diagnoses.

Changhua Christian Hospital physician Lin Ching-hsiung (林慶雄) said the symptoms of COPD often progress slowly with age and can be difficult to detect, with up to 90 percent of early-stage patients not knowing that they are suffering from the disease, so smokers aged 40 or above, or people with a family history of the disease should undergo regular health examinations.

Sun Yue (孫越), a celebrity who is a volunteer anti-smoking advocate at the foundation, said he smoked for 38 years before he quit 30 years ago, but he still has to be hospitalized several times per year due to repeated lung infections caused by COPD.

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