Smokers need to quit during coronavirus pandemic

Smoking tobacco may aggravate the effects of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Health experts are urging smokers to quit and cigarette companies to stop producing tobacco products to help alleviate the risks of COVID-19. A new study from China highlights the risk of smoking during the coronavirus pandemic.

Public Health England has warned against smokers since the novel coronavirus targets the respiratory system. Smokers are more likely to develop severe cases of viral infection than non-smokers.

Smokers are not only putting themselves at high risk of developing severe disease from the COVID-19 virus, but also those around them become vulnerable since they are exposed to secondhand smoke. Children and infants are affected if any of the members of the household smoke cigarettes.

Further, smokers may also be more vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are repeatedly bringing their hands to their mouths when smoking.

Image Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock
Image Credit: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

Smoking effects

Smoking tobacco is known to damage the lungs and airways. It also causes a multitude of severe respiratory problems. COVID-19 also attacks the respiratory system. The small study from China reveals that those who smoked and got infected with the virus are 14 times more likely to develop the disease. This research, titled ‘Analysis of factors associated with disease outcomes in hospitalized patients with 2019 novel coronavirus disease,’ is published in the Chinese Medical Journal.

The researchers investigated the factors affecting the progression of pneumonia in COVID-19 patients. Several factors that led to the progression of COVID-19 pneumonia were identified, including age, history of smoking, maximum body temperature on admission, respiratory failure, albumin, C-reactive protein. These results can be used to evaluate prognosis and find optimal treatment regimens for COVID-19 pneumonia.

Asides from the study’s finding, smoking weakens the immune system, making it less able to respond effectively to infections. Smokers with lung disease or reduced lung capacity are at higher risk of developing severe illness if they contract the severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML
Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

“In light of this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important time to stop smoking. Not only for your health but to protect those around you. It will also help alleviate the huge pressures on the NHS. It is never too late to quit, no matter your age,” Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England, said.

Smokers are at a higher risk of developing COVID-19 since they already have reduced lung function, and as the act of smoking puts fingers in contact with the mouth, the risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection is increased. Also, smoking products like water pipes usually involve the sharing of mouthpieces, which is a risky behavior amid the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

The WHO further reports that tobacco has a massive impact on respiratory health. There had been studies linking cigarette smoking and lung cancer, with tobacco use as the most common cause of lung cancer. Aside from that, it increases the risk of COPD, including emphysema. In the advent that a smoker becomes infected with the SARS-CoV-2, he or she may experience mild to severe respiratory damage.

Health benefits of quitting smoking

People who quit smoking may reap the benefits, with the lungs continuing to repair. The longer a person is smokefree, the healthier the lungs become.

After two days of being smokefree, carbon monoxide is removed from the body while the lungs can clear out the mucus from inside. Smoke chemicals and debris are also removed. By 72 hours, a person who quits smoking may notice that breathing becomes more comfortable. The bronchial airways during this time start to relax. Between two and 12 weeks, the body’s circulation improves, making it easier to walk, run, or exercise.

Quitting smoking can also ward off other diseases triggered by cigarette smoke, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and lung cancer, among others. Smokers with these health conditions may also experience severe illness when they contract the novel coronavirus, which can be potentially fatal.

COVID-19 is a new disease that emerged in China in December 2019. Since then, it has spread to 184 countries and territories, affecting over 1.43 million people and has killed over 82,000. The United States case toll has surpassed 398,000, while Spain, Italy, France, and Germany have reported increasing case tolls, with more than 141,000, 135,000, 110,000, and 107,000 confirmed cases, respectively.

Journal reference:
Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.


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