New figures show that lung emergencies are at a 10 year high in Wales due to smoking popularity 20 years ago.
In 2010- 11, 46,218 people were admitted to Welsh hospitals as emergency cases with lung disorders, according to NHS statistics.
The most common conditions which led to emergency hospital treatment were chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema - along with pneumonia.
Chris Mulholland, head of British Lung Foundation Wales, said one in five people in Wales were affected by lung conditions, and helping them earlier would ease the burden on the NHS.
Dr Patrick Flood-Page, chairman of British Lung Foundation Wales, said: "When you smoke it takes a while for this condition (COPD) to show itself.”
"So if the peak of the number of people smoking was 20 years ago, the peak of people with the condition comes 20 years later.
"Lots of people smoked back then, although it's been falling since.
"It's likely that COPD will continue to increase for the next few years, possibly to about 2020."
The British Lung Foundation Wales said patients with conditions like emphysema needed to be helped earlier.
But the waiting lists are said to be too high for an NHS scheme called pulmonary rehabilitation, which helps patients get fitter and understand how to manage their condition.
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