Smokers are being encouraged to stub out the habit for New Year.
Health officials are warning that some of the symptoms often dismissed as a ‘normal’ part of smoking can be an early sign of lung damage.
Fresh and Public Health England (PHE) is highlighting the debilitating nature of serious lung diseases after latest figures revealed the number of people diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in the north east reached 75,370 in 2014-15.
People with COPD have difficulties breathing, primarily due to the narrowing of their airways.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “COPD may not be well known but it can be a serious and severely debilitating disease.
“The single best thing a smoker can do to reduce their chances of developing this disease is to stop smoking.”
“January is a time when many people make New Year’s resolutions and resolving to stop smoking is the best thing you can do not only for your health but for the health of those around you.
“Search ‘Smokefree’ online or visit your local stop smoking service to get the help and support you need to quit smoking for good.”
Smokers can often dismiss the early signs of COPD as a ‘smoker’s cough’ or shortness of breath, but if they continue smoking and the condition worsens, it can greatly impact on their quality of life.
Dr Neil Munro, consultant respiratory physician with County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, based at the University Hospital of North Durham, said:
“COPD is a disease mainly caused by smoking.
“Unfortunately it’s a disease many smokers don’t know much about until they are diagnosed.
“It can be a cruel disease but its worst symptoms can be prevented by quitting smoking early enough.
“A person with COPD will experience a much more rapid and severe decline in the function of their lungs, potentially making tasks that they previously took for granted like walking upstairs, washing or shopping become tremendously hard work.
“Many COPD patients do find stopping smoking and treatment can really help their quality of life, but unfortunately we do not have any treatments to reverse the damage already sustained.
“The only way to stop the rapid deterioration in lung function is to stop smoking.”
Smokers looking to quit are being encouraged to search ‘Smokefree’ online or contact the North Tyneside NHS Stop Smoking Service on 0345 2000 101.