Smoking injures lung tissue and affects the lungs’ ability to fight infections. Tissue damage from smoking can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is sometimes called emphysema. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 90 percent deaths from COPD are caused by smoking.
Smoking also can cause other respiratory diseases, such as chronic bronchitis and pneumonia. Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to have upper and lower respiratory tract infections, perhaps because smoking suppresses immune function. Smokers’ lung function also declines more quickly than that of nonsmokers.
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