The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of lung health. Smoking is a risk factor for severe illness from COVID-19, which makes 2021 an even more opportune time to begin the journey to quitting once and for all.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified that smokers might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. We know that smoking and vaping causes harm to the lungs, leaving lung tissue inflamed, fragile and susceptible to infection.
In addition, tobacco use has been proven to harm the immune system and airway lining cells that contain cilia on their surface. which are our essential defenders against viruses like COVID-19. Without them working properly, our lungs are more vulnerable. One study suggests that smokers may be at a 2.4 times higher risk for severe illness than non-smokers, and another found that current and former smokers were about twice as likely to experience disease progression compared to nonsmokers.
We don’t have any studies yet that conclusively link vaping to a higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, but in an interview with Bloomberg News, FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said, “People with underlying health issues, such as heart or lung problems, may have increased risk for serious complications from COVID-19. This includes people who smoke and/or vape tobacco or nicotine-containing products.” Additionally, people who vape may engage in behaviors that could expose them to COVID-19, such as removing their masks to vape, sharing vapes with others and touching their face more often.
One of the most popular resolutions at the beginning of each year is the desire to quit smoking, with more than 70% of smokers reporting they want to quit. With the help of the American Lung Association, more than a million people have achieved success with their goal to quit smoking.
For youth, our Vape-Free Schools Initiative focuses on helping schools navigate the public health crisis of youth vaping by equipping school personnel with key trainings and resources. The program includes trainings to implement INDEPTH®, an alternative to suspension program, Not-On-Tobacco, (N-O-T®) a youth-centered vaping/tobacco education and cessation program, as well as an assessment and guidance on implementing a comprehensive tobacco-free school policy.
For adults, the Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program is ranked as one of the most effective cessation programs in the country. The program has helped hundreds of thousands of people quit smoking for good and is now available in a variety of formats – online, in-person clinics and over the phone.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for people, when they’re ready, to find the proven quit smoking support they need. Quitting tobacco will immediately improve your health and might also decrease your odds of severe illness from COVID-19. It’s the perfect way to set yourself up for a healthy new year and healthy years to come.
We encourage Orlando residents to start your journey to a tobacco-free life. Learn more at Lung.org/quit-smoking.