Smoking puts hundreds in hospital each year

GLADSTONE is home to more than 9500 smokers, and about 480 of them are hospitalised each year for the treatment of a deadly cigarette-related lung disease.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study reveals each year 398 to 480 Gladstone patients are hospitalised with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that often presents as emphysema.

University of Adelaide research shows there are at least 9500 smokers living in the Gladstone Regional Council area.

The region has one of the lowest COPD admission rates in the country.

At 12,480 admissions, the New South Wales Central Coast has Australia's highest level of the disease.

More than 12,200 Sunshine Coast patients and 11,272 Ipswich sufferers are hospitalised every 12 months.

According to Lung Foundation Australia, the illness costs the national health care system about $900 million annually.

About 5% of people aged over 55 have the disease that can also present as chronic bronchitis or chronic asthma.

Lung health expert Professor John Upham said COPD was most common in smokers and prevention was the best medicine.

"If you are smoking and you want to give up there are a lot of places you can now reach out to for help - whether that's counselling or patches or gum or some of the other things that are available," Princess Alexandra Hospital Brisbane's respiratory medicine chairman said.

"People can get a chest infection and suddenly they go from being slightly out of breath to being very sick and end up in hospital for a week," Prof Upham said.

"That costs the health care system thousands and thousands of dollars."

Lung Foundation chief Heather Allen said the disease could ruin life's simple pleasures.

"Many patients living with COPD have abandoned favourite activities ... and in patients with more severe disease there is distressing breathlessness performing the simplest activities of daily life," she said.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease:

  • About 5% of Australians over 55 have it.
  • It is more common than road crashes
  • Smokers are most at risk of developing it.
  • Health experts say prevention is the best medicine.
  • Treatments are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

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