Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is easily detected in its preclinical phase, using office spirometry. Successful smoking cessation prevents further disease progression in most patients. Spirometry measures the ratio of the forced expiratory volume in the first second to the forced vital capacity (FEV(1)/FVC), which is the most sensitive and specific test for detecting airflow limitation. Primary care practitioners see the majority of adult smokers, but few primary care practitioners currently have spirometers or regularly order spirometry for their smoker patients. Improvements in spirometry software have made it much easier to obtain good quality spirometry test sessions, thereby reducing the misclassification rate. Respiratory therapists and pulmonary function technologists can help primary care practitioners select good office spirometers for identifying chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and teach staff how to use spirometers correctly.