Apparently not, according to this study
You don't have to be a smoker to suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Indoor air pollution is enough for one to contract the infection, says the first-of-its-kind study conducted at 22 villages of Pune.
Out of 3,000 people randomly selected for the study, 210 suffered from COPD. "At least 93 per cent of those who had COPD were non smokers," says Dr Sundeep Salvi, coordinator of the Chest Research Foundation (CRF).
Chest Research Foundation in collaboration with the KEM Hospital, Pune, and the Imperial College, London, UK, conducted one of the largest COPD prevalence studies in a span of two and a half years and released the data on the eve of World COPD Day on November 17.
Dr Sundeep Salvi from CRF, Dr Sanjay Juvekar from KEM Hospital and Dr Peter Barnes from UK spearheaded the study. Salvi said the country requires a national COPD control programme.
The study used a standardised respiratory health questionnaire and spirometry (lung function test that diagnoses COPD). The prevalence of COPD was found to be 6.9% (5.6% amongst females and 8% amongst males).
Among those identified to have COPD, only 7% were smokers and 93% were never smokers, indicating that smoking is clearly not the most important risk factor for COPD in India. More importantly, 23% of the COPDs occurred in age group less than 40 years, which has not been reported earlier, says Salvi.
It has always been believed that COPD starts occurring after 40 years and above in people who have smoked for over 15-20 years. But in India, indoor air pollution seems to be the most important cause so the disease occurs in earlier age groups as well because of exposures from childhood, he explained.