Anti-smoking campaigns highlighting the risk of respiratory conditions should be directed specifically at women, according to a new study published in the latest Medical Journal of Australia.
Professor Robert Adams of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide, and colleagues, examined hospital admissions for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) from 1993-2003.
They found hospital admissions and mortality from asthma have fallen and mortality from COPD is declining for men, but not for women.
"COPD is reported to be the fourth most important cause of death in Australia, just behind cancer," says Prof Adams.
"People with undiagnosed COPD have a poorer quality of life and functional status than people with similar lung function who have been diagnosed and are receiving treatment."
Prof Adams says smoking is responsible for at least 60 per cent risk of COPD.
"Reducing smoking prevalence amongst young women is key to reducing this health burden," he says.
"As COPD is preventable and treatable, a strong public health message and funding commitment are warranted.
"There is a need for higher prioritisation of COPD, including policies to reduce smoking in women, and medical practice initiatives to support primary and secondary prevention, pulmonary rehabilitation and appropriate drug therapies.
"Future response to COPD needs to occur at both government and health professional levels."