Smokers are being urged not to dismiss early warning signs of lung disease as a "smoker's cough" in a new TV ad.
The campaign, created by Public Health England (PHE), aims to raise awareness of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) - the umbrella term for serious lung conditions that include chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
The latest GP figures reveal that more than 1 million people are living with COPD in the UK and smoking is the biggest preventable risk factor.
To highlight the impact of the progressive and debilitating disease, PHE has released a new short film featuring Olympian Iwan Thomas, whose mother has recently been diagnosed with COPD.
Together with four smokers, Thomas takes part in an experiment to illustrate the difficulties of living with advanced COPD and urges people to quit this New Year.
According to PHE, smokers can often dismiss the early signs of COPD as a "smoker’s cough", but if they continue smoking and the condition worsens, it can greatly impact on their quality of life.
People with COPD have difficulties breathing, primarily due to the narrowing of their airways and destruction of lung tissue.
Typical symptoms include breathlessness when active, a persistent cough and frequent chest infections.
Large numbers of people with COPD are unable to participate in everyday activities such as climbing stairs, housework or gardening, with many even unable take a holiday because of their disease.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer commented: "COPD is a serious lung disease and is not particularly well known. Yet it contributes to the deaths of almost 25,000 people a year.
"Nearly 90% of these COPD deaths are linked to smoking. COPD can also be a severely debilitating disease, dramatically affecting people’s breathing and leading to years of suffering.
"The single best thing a smoker can do to reduce their chances of developing this devastating disease and prolong their life, is to stop smoking."
Thomas added: "I’ve never fully understood COPD or the everyday consequences but when the simple things like climbing the stairs, making a cup of tea or walking to the bus stop become impossible, it’s serious.
"After years of smoking, it’s great that my mum is making 2016 the year she quits and I’d urge anyone who smokes to do the same. Quitting smoking can add years to your life and life to your years."
Smokers looking to quit are being encouraged to search ‘Smokefree’ online or visit nhs.uk/smokefree for the full range of free tools and support.