Smoking Increases Risks With COVID-19

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Person vaping and blowing out smoke

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As COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases rise across the U.S., the World Health Organization has issued statements that people who smoke are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. In addition, damage to their lungs from smoking may greatly increase the seriousness of their illness.

Premier Health Now talked with Mark Williams, MD, family practitioner with Jamestown Family Medicine, who offered insights and advice for people who smoke tobacco or marijuana, or who vape.

“Picking up lighters and cigarettes, and touching your face and lips all put you at greater risk for contracting the virus,” Dr. Williams says.

He notes additional worries about breathing effectively if coronavirus strikes lungs already damaged by smoking.

Dr. Williams explains, “What we know about smoking is that it decreases your lung function by narrowing your breathing tubes. Smoking also shuts down one of your lungs’ best defenses: the hair-like cilia in your airways that typically push out mucus. With smoking, they stop working.”

When the effects of smoking combine with lung inflammation that can occur from COVID-19, you have a greater risk of developing serious, even life-threatening pneumonia.

Family members who breathe in second-hand smoke also may experience lung damage over time that could impact their ability to fight off COVID-19.

Dr. Williams suggests that smokers, along with the rest of the population, can protect themselves best by following these guidelines:

  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Keep your hands away from your face.
  • Stay at home.

As for strengthening your lungs, Dr. Williams notes, “Exercise improves your respiratory and cardiovascular health. It helps you use oxygen more efficiently.”

He strongly advocates that anyone who smokes consider quitting. “There’s no time like the present, and now you have time to do this.”

An important insight Dr. Williams offers is that smoking is a habit. “Ask yourself when you have the greatest urge to smoke. At those times, you need a better habit to replace this habit.”

Dr. Williams recommends smoking cessation resources through Premier Health and the State of Ohio if you are ready to quit smoking.

For example, he says, “Premier plans to have video visits available soon for our patients. You could do a video visit on smoking cessation from the comfort of your own home.”

If you need more reasons to quit smoking, check out these stories:

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