A recent study in the U.K. has revealed that more people than ever before have quit smoking this year as a direct result of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) pandemic. In July 2020, the organization Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reported that more than 1 million people stopped smoking since the coronavirus pandemic hit the United Kingdom, with an additional 440,000 smokers trying to quit during this period.
The harms of smoking tobacco are well recognized. Smoking is a major risk factor for severe disease and death from many respiratory infections, and there is now growing evidence worldwide to support the association between smoking and COVID-19 severity.
Smoking and COVID-19
Smoking is known to cause damage to the lungs and airways, which is where COVID-19 also does its harm in many people with the virus. The chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the lungs’ delicate lining.
Smoking can therefore cause permanent damage that compromises the lungs’ ability to exchange air efficiently. Plus, smoking can also significantly harm the immune system, thereby reducing the body’s ability to fight infections successfully.
U.S. experts say that COVID-19 symptoms appear to be much worse in smokers who get the coronavirus than in nonsmokers who get sick. They also found that smokers who tested positive for COVID-19 were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized than nonsmokers with the disease and that hospitalized smokers with the virus were 1.8 times more likely to die (almost twice as likely) than nonsmokers.
Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, director of pediatric research at the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, reportedly said that quitting smoking during the pandemic could not only save your own life but could also mean saving someone else’s life by preventing the need for your treatment in a hospital – and thereby reducing demand on healthcare. He also said that smoking (and vaping) may also exacerbate the risk of spreading the virus by the repeated touching of the face by the hand when smoking, allowing germs to be spread to the face. Smokers are also more likely to have increased coughing or expectorating which, if infected with the coronavirus, can increase the spread of the virus.
Conflicting Research on the Novel Coronavirus
There have been some recent studies around the world that have made claims that smoking may actually have a protective effect against the coronavirus. This is thought to result from nicotine blocking the same receptors used by the virus to get into the cells. However, evidence to back up this theory remains limited, and the harms of tobacco smoking are believed to far outweigh any potential benefits.
Quit for COVID
It is never too late to quit smoking, and with the rise in coronavirus cases worldwide, there is even more reason to try and reduce any increased risks associated with the virus. ASH says that where you live in the U.S. can affect access to essential treatment if you get sick. High smoking rates accompanied with limited hospital bed capacity in rural communities can create a dangerous situation and put lives at risk, stressing the importance of taking action to quit smoking.
Stopping smoking can dramatically benefit your overall health. When smokers quit:
- Their risk of having a heart attack drops significantly after just one year.
- The risk of stroke can fall to about the same level as a nonsmoker’s risk after just 2-5 years.
- The risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder are reduced by half within 5 years.
- The risk of dying from lung cancer drops by half after 10 years.
Smoking Cessation and Lung Specialist in Weatherford, Texas
If you would like help in giving up smoking, or if you have concerns about your lung health, talk to the healthcare providers at Lung & Sleep Specialists of North Texas. In addition to pulmonary function testing (PFT), we offer individualized smoking cessation, where we incorporate behavioral modification, alternative therapies, detoxification, and/or medication to improve success.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation with one of our providers, call us today at (817) 594-9993 or request an appointment now via our online form. We look forward to partnering with you in your goal toward optimum health!