Quitting Smoking for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Quitting smoking is the most important step you can take in treating chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is never too late to quit. No matter how long you have had COPD or how serious it is, quitting smoking will help slow the disease and improve your quality of life. Medicines and other treatments cannot prevent damage to your lungs if you continue to smoke.

There are clear benefits to quitting, even after years of smoking. When you stop smoking, you slow how quickly further damage develops in your lungs. For most people who quit, loss of lung function is slowed to the normal rate of decline. Although lung damage that already has occurred does not reverse, quitting smoking can delay the worsening of COPD symptoms.

See a graph of how important quitting smoking is.

People who complete a program to stop smoking are most likely to succeed in quitting. If the program includes counseling, the success rate is better.

Certain medicines also can help you reach your goal of quitting smoking:

  • Nicotine gum, skin patches, and nasal spray for smokers physically addicted to nicotine may make quitting easier.
  • A drug called clonidine, given as a pill or a skin patch, may reduce withdrawal symptoms.
  • A prescription drug such as varenicline (Chantix) or bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban) may help some people stop smoking.
  • The combination of bupropion and nicotine patches may be more effective than either treatment alone.

Quitting smoking can be difficult. Those who are most likely to succeed in quitting are those who keep trying, even if they have tried several times before. Hypnosis or acupuncture does not help most people who are trying to quit smoking.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology
Last Revised November 29, 2011

Last Revised: November 29, 2011

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