A NEW hard-hitting campaign has been launched to highlight the dangers of a common smoking-related lung disease.

Take a Breath aims to raise awareness of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, an irreversible condition that accounts for more deaths than breast, prostate or bowel cancer in the UK.

COPD is the UK’s fifth biggest killer and as many as 90,000 people in the region are registered as suffering from it. An estimated 55,000 are still undiagnosed.

In Bournemouth and Poole there are 5,598 known sufferers and an estimated 5,829 people undiagnosed. The rest of Dorset has 6,734 registered COPD sufferers and an estimated 5,069 undiagnosed.

The disease is the second most common cause of emergency admissions to hospitals and one of the most expensive to treat as an in-patient, costing the NHS around £579 million a year.

Smokefree South West, supported by the British Lung Foundation, launched the new campaign on World COPD Day on Wednesday.

Dr Steve Holmes, clinical respiratory lead for NHS South West and chairman of the British Lung Foundation in the region, said: “If caught early there is plenty of help that can be provided and with support it is possible to reduce the impact of the disease.”

The campaign will feature on TV and radio from next Monday.