Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) continues to be an important cause of morbidity, mortality, and health-care costs worldwide. It is a global health issue, with cigarette smoking being an important risk factor universally; other factors, such as exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution, occupational hazards, and infections, are also important. As the global population ages, the burden of COPD will increase in years to come. Prevalence estimates of the disorder show considerable variability across populations, suggesting that risk factors can affect populations differently. Other advances in our understanding of COPD are increased recognition of the importance of comorbid disease, identification of different COPD phenotypes, and understanding how factors other than lung function affect outcome in our patients. The challenge we will all face in the next few years will be implementation of cost-effective prevention and management strategies to stem the tide of this disease and its cost.