Emphysema is not contagious. You can't develop it from coming in physical contact with someone else who has it. However, you can develop the disease as a result of secondhand smoke, which means if you live with a smoker or spend a lot of time with people who smoke, you are at higher risk of developing emphysema. In some cases, a higher risk for the disease can also be passed on hereditarily in the form of a protein deficiency. A protein called alpha-1 antitrypsin helps protect your alveoli from getting damaged by a specific enzyme in your body. If you don't have enough of the protein in your body, you may develop emphysema.