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British Lung Foundation
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Emphysema from passive smoking

Hi I've just been told I have emphysema as a result of years of passive smoking as a child and young woman living with a family of chain smokers. I am frightened and angry. I have never smoked. Any advice would be much appreciated from anyone in a similar position.

13 Replies

That is very, very hard. And we all understand your anger and anxiety. I hope you are well supported by your doctors. Sadly I think there is no way to reverse the damage. But you can do everything you can to live as well as you can, and hopefully slow down, even halt, the progress of this horrible disease. How severe is your condition?

This is a brilliant site and you will find a lot of help and support here.


Thank you - I don't know the severity yet - I only found out on Wednesday- tests tomorrow so I guess I will know more then - thank you for the support it is very much appreciated


The anger and fright that you feel are a normal reaction upon receiving diagnosis, most, if not all of us have gone through it. Both of those emotions will not do you any favours, anxiety will only make your breathing worse. Yes it is unfair that it was not your fault, that you have never smoked, but you cannot blame your family because they were, most probably, ignorant of the damage that they were doing to you, at the time.

Emphysema is a chronic condition, there is no cure. That is a fact you need to accept, being angry, frightened and worried, although natural, will not cure it or make it go away. It will however make you ill.

There is so much that you can do to slow down the progression of the disease. It is not a death sentence despite what Dr. Google might say, so steer clear of Google.

You can live to a ripe old age by:

Keeping away from any kind of smoke, inc such as bonfires and barbecues.

Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy BMI.

Drink lots of water.

Learn how to relax.

Take your medication as prescribed and on time.

Exercise, the next best weapon against this disease after quitting smoking (which you don't do anyway).

Ask your GP to refer you to Pulmonary Rehabilitation where you can learn all about your condition and how to manage it. You will learn what exercises to do and how to manage your breathing whilst doing so (pursed lip breathing). You will learn so much more than your GP has time to tell you about. You will also meet other patients who are also in the same boat as you too, so no need to be embarrassed by your symptoms.

We are all affected by lung disease on this forum (not forgetting the carers too) and a self support group, no question is too silly, we were all newbies at one time, so ask away.


Thank you for the support - I'm not blaming my family - there was not the education then that there is now, but anger is a normal emotion when you've been doing all you can to keep well. Life is a lottery I totally understand that. Thank you for all the advice though it is appreciated


Hi sorry to hear this but even smokers don't deserve lung disease. Only 1 in 4 people who smoke will get unlucky and there is no point blaming yourself or others. Also around 15% of sufferers have never smoked or been subject to passive smoking. Much of it is the luck of the draw and the genes you inherit.

It's natural to be frightened of such a diagnosis but hopefully it is caught at an early stage and there is much you can do to mitigate the effects of the disease. Stay with us here and we will help and support you all we can.


Thank you - I'm not blaming anyone - I grew up in the sixties and seventies and there was not the education that there is now. I was just wondering if anyone else had a similar experience from passive smoking. I'm not suggesting that anyone deserves this horrible disease so I hope that is not how my message came across I seem to be the only one in the family affected, my family who were smoking have not got it strangely. Thank you very much for your reply and support

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No problem. Good to meet you.


I'm so sorry you've been diagnosed with Emphysema . I can remember how upset I was to be told I had severe emph at 49 but that is because it was what my Mum had died of a few years earlier...we didn't know about Alpha1Antitripsin Deficiency...and I have passed it on to my Son....I smoked when I was younger so I signed my own fate in a way.

I was brought up by heavy smokers too but like myself my parents didn't know the harm it was causing them or us children. These days most people are aware of the dangers of passive smoking and I'm so glad it has been banned from most places.

I don't know where you live but the pollution in our towns and cities is alarmingly high , so many children and adults are asthmatic. The air we breathe needs to be clean and fresh for healthy lungs and I hope you can stay as well as I have since my diagnosis.

Wishing you well and hope you can come to terms with your dis-ease.

huff 💐


Thank you - I can't believe how much support I'm getting from this site already - so appreciated

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I'm sorry to hear of your diagnosis. Do you have emphysema or bronchitis ? It does seem unfair to be diagnosed with Copd when you've never smoked but, I don't altogether buy that excuse when they know full well things like diesel, aerosols sprays, airborne chemicals ect... are the more likely culprits.

My grandparents had bronchitis, they smoked tipless cigarettes and their bronchitis had little effect on their lives. Their diet was atrocious and they sat around all day. Yet, they lived into their 70/80's.

My parents also smoked tipless cigarettes and smoked like chimneys too. They both had bronchial asthma.

My mother died aged 42, from nothing to do with smoking. My Dad lived till 82 and would have lived longer but for an infection following major surgery for an aneurism. There is an epidemic of COPD cases and there must be an explanation for it, other than cigarettes.

I smoked and I personally blame the manufacturers for all the chemicals they are putting in them, to make them burn faster and ro keep people addicted.

If your young, you need a test for Alpha 1. If you stay on this forum, you will get lots of support whilst you get your head around the diagnosis. It's a horrible diagnosis but, it can be managed with the right information and treatment. xx


Thank you very much for your reply and the support - much appreciated



Your situation is very sad, however there are things that you can do to help you have a decent lifestyle. You don't sound too old to consider a transplant, whether this can be afforded on the NHS depends on the area you live and your own GP's ability to get you referred. You can agitate to see a specialist to see what other treatments there are out there that you may be eligible for. Most people on this forum can vouch for the information and support you will get, keep in touch with us. Do not try to research this on the internet it will frighten you witless. Instead use the information you can obtain thro' this forum.


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Thank you Keith - much appreciated


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