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Inhaled toxic vapors, such as those found in cigarette smoke, can lead to the development of emphysema, an irreversible disease that jeopardizes the lungs’ ability to function. Emphysema destroys the alveoli and the alveolar ducts. As your lungs lose elasticity, the alveoli rupture, creating large airspaces that reduce the surface area needed by your body to absorb oxygen and remove carbon dioxide waste. This can cause shortness of breath that progressively worsens and results in damage to the lungs and the heart.