Nine in 10 lung disease deaths 'linked to smoking'
More than one million people in the UK are living with chronic lung diseases linked to smoking, according to Public Health England (PHE).
The new figures also suggest nearly nine out of 10 of the 25,000 annual deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the UK are caused by smoking.
Officials urged those who smoke not to dismiss possible symptoms of COPD as "smoker's cough" as they warned the scale of the loss of life was preventable.
COPD, an umbrella term for conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, can cause sufferers breathlessness and difficulty climbing stairs, playing sport or even taking a holiday. There is currently no cure.
Chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said: " COPD is a serious lung disease and is not particularly well known. Yet it contributes to the deaths of almost 25,000 people a year. Nearly 90% of these COPD deaths are linked to smoking.
"The single best thing a smoker can do to reduce their chances of developing this devastating disease and prolong their life, is to stop smoking."
PHE has released a campaign advert featuring ex-Olympic runner Iwan Thomas, whose mother was recently diagnosed with COPD.
He said: "I've never fully understood COPD or the everyday consequences but when the simple things like climbing the stairs, making a cup of tea or walking to the bus stop become impossible, it's serious. After years of smoking, it's great that my mum is making 2016 the year she quits and I'd urge anyone who smokes to do the same."
Mr Thomas will be taking part in an experiment with four smokers to show the effects of serious lung disease.
Clinical lead for COPD at Royal Brompton Hospital and medical adviser to the British Lung Foundation Dr Nicholas Hopkinson said: " My advice to anyone who smokes is don't ignore a 'smoker's cough' or getting out of breath. Take it as a sign to quit before any damage to your lungs gets worse.
"If diagnosed early; changes in lifestyle, treatments such as pulmonary rehabilitation, and prescription medications can slow down the progression of the disease and help patients cope with symptoms like breathlessness and fatigue.
"However, there is no cure for COPD, so the single most important thing you can do to reduce the chances of getting the condition is to stop smoking completely."
Smokers wanting help to quit can search Smokefree online or visit nhs.uk/smokefree.