KARACHI  - Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease) in Pakistan, said experts in a programme organized to commemorate world chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) at Dow University of Health Science.Speakers including Dr Muhammad Masroor, Dr Nisar Rao, Dr Faisal Zubeiri and Dr Mirza Saifullah Baig said COPD was a disabling disease of lung severely restricting day-to-day activities of the concerned patients. DUHS sources giving details of the program on Wednesday said the speakers comprising senior chest specialists called for improved public awareness about COPD and proper COPD care.The experts said “Smoking” was the most important risk factor responsible for the disease.  They suggested strict measures to ensure complete ban on tobacco smoking, the chief cause of COPD.The theme for World COPD Day 2012 “It’s Not Too Late,” they said provides an opportunity to streamline efforts against tobacco smoking be it the cigarettes, pipes, sheesha or so-forth. Prof Muhammad Mansoor, Director, Ojha Institute of Chest Diseases said this tertiary care hospital was providing services free of cost to all suffering from lung diseases. He said that COPD affects more than 65 million people worldwide and represents the fourth leading cause of death, after cerebrovascular, heart and infectious diseases. “Although the prevalence of COPD is increasing at a steady pace yet it is widely an under-diagnosed and under-treated in Pakistan,” he said.  Dr Nisar Rao, Associate Professor, Ojha Institute said that smoking one to four cigarettes every day for few years is sufficient to cause irreversible damage to the lungs.Unfortunately most patients in Pakistan present to their doctors very late when severe damage to lungs had already been done, he said. The best way to prevent this disease is to avoid smoking altogether and those who are regular smokers should seek help from their doctors who could guide them in quitting smoking by using modern quit smoking medicine.Dr Faisal Zubeiri, Assistant Professor, Ojha Institute said that the use of solid fuel like wood and coal in cooking is another important cause for the disease in women living in our rural areas. He urged the government to take measures for the implementation of clean air laws in the country as COPD can also occur from exposure to second hand smoking.The early symptom of this disease is persistent cough accompanied with sputum followed by shortness of breath. If COPD is detected early, treatments are available to prevent further deterioration of lung function, said Dr Zubeiri.Dr Saifullah Baig, Assistant Professor, Ojha Institute said that increased exposure to risk factors (especially tobacco and indoor air pollution like solid fuels and biomass is associated with increase incidence of COPD especially in developing countries & in women. He quoted WHO figure that in 2005 three millions people died of COPD.