Smoking and COVID-19

What You Should Know About Smoking and COVID-19

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness in people. Human coronaviruses are not new — they are common throughout the world and typically cause mild to moderate illnesses. The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a respiratory virus first identified in December 2019. COVID-19 is not the most contagious of the coronavirus family, but what makes it so dangerous is that no one is immune. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) are much more contagious but can be controlled through vaccinations.

As with any lung illness, smoking increases the risk of negative health effects among those infected with COVID-19. Current and former smokers are at no greater risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 than others; however, they do face a greater risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19. Preliminary research suggests that smokers infected with COVID-19 are nearly 1.5 times more likely to have severe symptoms and 2.5 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, need mechanical ventilation, or die compared to non-smokers. While research into the effects of smoking on COVID-19 outcomes is limited and will continue as cases increase, experience with other lung illnesses suggests that smoking continues to be a significant risk factor for adverse health outcomes among those diagnosed with COVID-19.

Vaping and COVID-19

New research suggests vaping affects lung health, decreases the body’s ability to respond to infection, and increases the severity of lung diseases. E-cigarette users are likely at an increased risk of developing more severe complications if they contract COVID-19 than people who do not vape. Young adults who vape are five times more likely to receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis compared to their non-vaping peers. While research into e-cigarettes and their effects on lung health continues, the safest option to prevent serious risks is to stop use of all e-cigarettes.

Thinking About Quitting?

In addition to following social distancing guidelines and other recommendations to reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus, smokers and e-cigarette users should take additional steps to reduce their chances of developing severe symptoms if they get sick. Now is a great time to consider quitting smoking and other forms of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health and prevent severe outcomes that may result from COVID-19.

If you are considering quitting smoking or vaping, there are a number of resources available to you:

  1. View our tobacco resources page or the smoking cessation section of our online library for quit tips and additional resources.
  2. Contact our tobacco treatment specialist with any questions or concerns you have about quitting. Our tobacco treatment specialist and tobacco programs team members are happy to support you through the quit process and will respond to your questions promptly.
  3. Enroll in a virtual Courage to Quit program. We are currently developing a web-based version of Courage to Quit, our evidence-based adult smoking cessation program. If you are interested in participating in a virtual program, contact Lesli Vipond, RHA’s tobacco program manager at [email protected].
  4. Call your state tobacco quit line at 1-866-QUIT-NOW.

Quit Tips While at Home

1. Prepare your environment. Use this time to get rid of any reminders of smoking or vaping around your home. Wash your clothes, get rid of any smoking or vaping supplies, and dispose of all your cigarettes or vapes. Keeping cigarettes, vapes, or lighters “just in case” undermines your self-confidence.
2. Find support. Have someone you can call or reach out to when you have the urge to smoke or vape. Share your decision to quit with someone else who can hold you accountable.
3. Stay motivated. Make a list of reasons to quit and keep the list where you can see it. Revisit these reasons when you have the urge to smoke or vape.
4. Get moving. Plan ahead for ways to stay active at home when a craving hits. Find free workout videos online. Do yoga, lunges or push-ups in your home. Staying active will keep your mind off of smoking or vaping until the craving passes.
5. Reward yourself for not smoking or vaping. Set short and long term goals, and reward yourself for each milestone you reach. Making a “contract” with yourself or a friend can help you stay resolved.
6. Don’t be discouraged. Many former smokers tried to stop several times before they finally succeeded. If you give in to a craving, don’t let it get you down. Examine what went wrong, learn from what happened and quit again!

Download a PDF of these quit tips for quick reference or to share with others.