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Current trends in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the UK differ from those in many other countries because, in the past, COPD was much more common than in other countries undergoing a smoking epidemic at the same time, and peak cigarette consumption in men and women occurred more 25 years ago. Male mortality from COPD has been falling for 30 years, while female mortality has risen steadily during the same period. A strong socioeconomic gradient in morbidity and mortality persists. Emergency hospital admissions for exacerbations and home oxygen account for a large proportion of the healthcare costs.