Most people have had a brush with bronchitis–an inflammation of the bronchi or the breathing tubes–at some time in their lives. And 7 million people, virtually all of them smokers, experience the symptoms of bronchitis every single day for years. Bronchitis comes in two versions. Acute bronchitis occurs when an infection, usually a virus or bacteria, inflames the bronchial tubes. It produces a raw, hacking, painful cough that can sometimes be relieved with self-care measures but often requires antibiotics.