COVID-19 is a health danger for everyone. But for smokers, the threat is even greater. Being a former or current cigarette smoker increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Of course, it’s known that smoking reduces lung capacity and impairs lung function. The bigger problem during the pandemic is that it increases the risk of respiratory infections while also increasing the severity of respiratory diseases. That’s a dangerous combination. When you smoke, you lower the body’s natural defenses. And that’s how the coronavirus can get in and do its damage.
Early research suggests that if you smoke, the outcome of having coronavirus might be severe or even deadly. There is a lot that’s still unknown about how COVID-19 might affect the lungs of smokers and vapers. As the ability to fight off infection decreases, the risk of a catastrophic assault on your respiratory system increases. Doctor Jonathan Hays, director of Mayo Clinic’s Nicotine Dependence Center attests, “We know from the previous coronavirus outbreak … that smokers were more susceptible to infection and more likely to get more serious infection.” Last year, when the World Health Organization conducted a review of studies by public health experts, it found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19, compared to nonsmokers. “We’re seeing worse cases of COVID-19 in smokers,” says Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonologist at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. “Your lungs, which are at the forefront of your immune system, are interacting with the environment with every breath,” he continues.
What’s the answer? It’s simple enough. Quit smoking. Smokers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Play it safe. If you’re trying to stop smoking cigarettes or quit vaping, now is the time. The benefits of quitting are immediate. Within 20 minutes of quitting, elevated heart rate and blood pressure drop. Over the next few days, weeks and months, the body will begin to heal. Lung function will improve and shortness of breath decreases.
Remember, quitting often takes several attempts. Don’t give up if you’re having a hard time or if you’ve tried to quit before without any luck. If you’re still using tobacco, make today the first day of your quit journey. We’re here to help, with an online toolbox of free resources, tips and guidance. Find out more at WayToQuit.org or call the Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
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