Risk factors for COPD include:

  • Exposure to tobacco smoke. The most significant risk factor for COPD is long-term cigarette smoking. The more years you smoke and the more packs you smoke, the greater your risk. Pipe smokers, cigar smokers, marijuana smokers and people exposed to large amounts of secondhand smoke also are at risk.
  • People with asthma who smoke. The combination of asthma, a chronic airway disease, and smoking increases the risk of COPD even more.
  • Occupational exposure to dusts and chemicals. Long-term exposure to chemical fumes, vapors and dusts in the workplace can irritate and inflame your lungs.
  • Age. COPD develops slowly over years, so most people are at least 35 to 40 years old when symptoms begin.
  • Genetics. An uncommon genetic disorder known as alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency is the source of some cases of COPD. Other genetic factors likely make certain smokers more susceptible to the disease.