Support there to quit smoking

December 1, 2021 BY

Smokers are being urged to seize the day and quit smoking to protect their lungs and reduce the risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Quit Victoria is encouraging people who smoke to call Quitline and take the first important step toward avoiding COPD which accounts for 30 per cent of the burden of disease from smoking.

Dr Sarah White, director of Quit Victoria, said few people who smoke realise that three in 10 cases of COPD, a group of conditions that limit airflow and cause shortness of breath, are caused by smoking.

She said November 17 marked World COPD Day which was a great reminder for people to quit smoking to avoid lung damage and reduce the risk posed by other diseases such as COVID.

“As a society, we’ve never been more aware of how critical it is to protect the health of our lungs,” Dr White said.

“Protecting your lungs means you can be physically active. It also means you are likely to be less impacted by viruses that affect the lungs, from COVID to the seasonal flu.”

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2019 research showed cancers accounted for 43 per cent of the burden of disease from smoking, and almost two-thirds of this was from lung cancer (28 per cent of total burden).


COPD – a slow, progressive disease and commonly causes years of sickness and suffering – accounted for 30 per cent of the burden, followed by cardiovascular diseases (17 per cent) primarily related to coronary heart disease (10 per cent) and stroke (3.1 per cent).

The first signs of COPD can be a shortness of breath that gradually worsens over the years as smoking continues. At first, you may only notice a slight shortness of breath every morning and evening. Then a short walk may be enough to produce breathlessness and wheezing.

With further damage, breathing may become a major effort. By the time you feel short of breath, the lungs are already damaged.
Patients with COPD are vulnerable to heart and lung failure and other potentially fatal conditions.

“The effects of COPD can be more severe in people who have an underlying lung disease, such as asthma and the damage to lung tissue in COPD is permanent and irreversible,” Dr White said.

“The best way to prevent COPD is to stop smoking and the best way to stop smoking is with support from Quitline and with stop smoking medications, like the nicotine patch and gum.”

For more quitting advice, head to the Quit website or call the Quitline on 13 7848 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday. Quitline is a culturally inclusive telephone service for all, including the LGBTIQ+ community. Aboriginal Quitline counsellors are also available.