Does smoking increase the likelihood of contracting COVID-19?

May 26, 2020

There is as yet no direct evidence that a history of smoking makes an individual more likely to contract COVID-19 but cigarette smoking is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases. A review of studies by public health experts convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 29th April 2020 found that smokers are more likely to develop severe diseases with COVID-19, compared to non-smokers:   

‘COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases. Tobacco is also a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by COVID-19. Available research suggests that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death.’

Is this a good time to quit smoking?

Stopping smoking is the single most important thing that you can do to improve your health – no matter what the time! The immediate benefits though may be especially important at this time:

‘Within 20 minutes of quitting, elevated heart rate and blood pressure drop. After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the bloodstream drops to normal. Within 2-12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases. Over time immune function improves.’

The COVID-19 pandemic may be the inspiration you need to motivate a quit attempt. GoSmokeFree is an evidence based stop smoking programme combining pharmacotherapy, behaviour change and support sessions to give the smoker the best chance of quitting and staying smoke free. The programme is supported by various medical aids and is available through a trained nursing sister in various pharmacies throughout South Africa.

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