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Indiana's smoking problem leads to high COPD rates. Prevention key to address chronic lung disease

Indiana has one of the highest prevalence rates of COPD, a chronic disease that affects the lungs and airways. The American Lung Association released recommendations to “reduce the burden” of COPD.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that limits air flow and causes problems with breathing. Indiana has the ninth highest prevalence rate and the sixth highest rate of death caused by COPD in the country. The American Lung Association recommends “evidence-based tobacco prevention and cessation services.”

Dr. Marc Rovner is a pulmonologist with IU Health and local leadership board member with the American Lung Association in Indiana. He said addressing COPD rates in Indiana should start with the leading cause of the disease.

“If you smoke, you need to stop,” Rovner said. “What's really important about that is as soon as you stop smoking, the fire in the lungs goes out.”

READ MORE: New report: E-cigarette use increased in Indiana by more than 72 percent

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Indiana’s adult smoking rate is among the highest in the country, and is consistently higher than the U.S. median.

Rovner said there can be a lot of shame around a COPD diagnosis because smoking is the leading cause.

“Once we diagnosed them and if they can stop smoking, we need to treat them compassionately and properly and effectively,” Rovner said.

The American Lung Association recommends investing in smoking prevention and using validated screening tools for those who are at risk or reporting symptoms.

“We now have more tools by which to diagnose and treat COPD, you know, better inhalers, better therapies,” Rovner said. “There are some newer biologic therapies that may be coming out that would be available if we can diagnose the patient properly.”

Rovner said these are expensive, so many patients need a “subsidy” for the tools and treatments. He said getting patients started on treatment early is an important factor in how effective they are.

Abigail is our health reporter. Contact them at

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Abigail Ruhman