According to the WHO, narrowing of the breathing passage, which results due to smoking is said to become the world's third biggest killer by 2020.
Called Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), the ailment entails two specific health problems: chronic-obstructive bronchitis and emphysema of the lungs.
Unlike simple bronchitis, the breathing passages narrow due to swelling of the mucous membrane and emphysema decomposes lung tissue. People with this disease find that the obstructions quickly lead to disabilities.
Officials with WHO look at the spread of this disease with concern, especially given the 1.1 billion smokers worldwide.
COPD is especially tricky because it works very slowly and becomes noticeable only after it has attacked the body for years.
"One regular symptom is abnormal bronchial passage sensitivity to outside influences. That outside influence, as a rule, is cigarette smoking," explains Michael Pfeifer of the Regensburg University Clinic.
Said German lung specialist Michael Barczok: "The sooner the disease is recognised, the better the chances to control it. Breathing problems after exertion are an early symptom."
As of now, there are no therapies to rebuild lungs. What is destroyed is destroyed, said Pfeifer.