How Dangerous is Smoking During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, healthy individuals can avoid infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus by properly wearing a mask, staying at least six feet apart (ideally further, especially indoors), avoiding social gatherings and crowds, and washing hands frequently. However, even with the most diligent precautions, people still experience COVID-19 risk from workplaces, household exposure and essential errands, like doctor visits and buying groceries at stores. While protecting yourself against COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses is at the top of everyone’s mind, it is important to protect your health through everyday lifestyle choices. In particular, smoking and vaping can materially increase your risk of severe and chronic forms of COVID-19,  if you do contract the disease.  This is further exacerbated by underlying chronic bronchitis emphysema and COPD.

If you regularly smoke or vape, experts suggest that now would be an opportune time to quit. This recommendation is primarily being made, because smoking has a direct link to structural and functional lung damage, including lung cancer. While young adults typically experience less severe forms of COVID-19, a study found that 13- to 24-year-old participants who vaped were five times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than otherwise, and those who smoked were seven times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19. This increased number of diagnoses may come from people experiencing more severe symptoms and seeking medical care.

For people of all ages, smoking can cause inflammation in the lungs and airways, which can lead to an increased inflammatory response to viruses like SARS-CoV-2. Smoking can also damage the cilia in the lungs, which are an essential part of clearing viral particles out of the lungs. In short, smoking (and likely vaping) can affect the exact mechanisms that your body uses to fight off COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses like the flu.  A growing problem with COVID-19 is the development of “long-COVID,” which signifies a long-term, persistent form of the disease, affecting certain organs more than others.  This can occur in patients of all ages, who often go on to suffer from a form of cardiomyopathy (diffuse heart muscle dysfunction) or thromboembolic disease (clotting in blood vessels).

In addition to COVID-19 prevention methods, protecting your immune system through a healthy diet, enough sleep and quitting smoking can help to reduce your chances of severe infection if you do become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19. . If there was ever a good time to quit smoking and vaping, now is the time.  

Source: Yale Medicine

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