Smoking or vaping is considered an underlying condition that heightens your risk for complications from COVID-19. It is a health crisis of unprecedented proportions and the more your smoke and do damage to your lungs, the more vulnerable your entire body becomes to contracting the virus. Smoking not only increases your risk for complications if you get COVID-19, it also increases your chances of getting the virus in the first place.
Risk of Complications
The Centers for Disease Control categorizes smokers as "immunocompromised," which means having a weakened immune system, and puts smokers in the same group as those receiving cancer treatments or who have HIV. The CDC has widespread cautionary messages that specifically mention that people who are immunocompromised are at risk to get more severe COVID-19 symptoms. In addition, conditions that reduce your ability to use oxygen properly put you at a higher risk of developing serious lung conditions such as pneumonia.
While the evidence is clear that smoking compromises your ability to use oxygen and hinders your immune response, there’s also emerging research that vaping too can harm your ability to fight infection in the lungs. Therefore, no matter if you smoke cigarettes or vape, the end result is the same. Smokers are also at greater risk for cardiovascular and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which can further increase the risk of complications for contracting the virus.
People who smoke and vape may also be at greater risk of contracting the disease because the act of smoking means you are touching your face more. The CDC specifically laid out that touching your face was a means to spread infection, and that washing your hands more frequently is a preventative measure, but not the end-all. Also, smokers have trouble wearing masks when they choose to puff on a cigarette or vape.
Think about it. Every time a smoker draws the cigarette towards their mouth, there’s less happenstance that they’re using a mask protection properly, and more of a chance during the series of puffing on a cigarette that they can spread the infection. One virus prevention technique experts recommend is to avoid touching your face because the virus can enter the body when it is transferred from your hands to the membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth.
Even the World Health Organization warns that smoking cigarettes and other products--such as water pipes that may involve the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses--could spread COVID-19 in communal and social settings. Since the pandemic isn’t yet under control, contracting the virus is more prominent unless a person makes a conscious effort to quit smoking.
Reasons to Quit Smoking
Following are the reasons that quitting smoking or vaping can help you:
- Decrease opportunities for transmitting the disease by touching your face
- Lower your chances of complications if you do get coronavirus
- Boost your immune system
- Save money, which may be more important now that COVID-19 has caused widespread financial distress
- Reduce your need to go into public spaces to purchase cigarettes, as many states prohibit online orders
- Reap long-term health benefits, including reducing your risk for lung disease, cancer and heart attack
Smoking and e-cigarette use increase the risk and severity of pulmonary infections because of damage to upper airways and a decrease in pulmonary immune function in general, although these effects have not yet been studied for SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
While it may be more important than ever to quit smoking or vaping during COVID-19, the stress of a pandemic doesn’t help, as there’s more of a tendency to want to smoke to ease the tension. Managing your stress and self-care will need to be an important part of your effort to quit. Some people are successful quitting cold turkey or gradually reducing the number of cigarettes they smoke, while others may need some outside help.
It’s vital to understand that both smoking cigarettes and vaping lead to not only lung disease, but can set your body up to be more vulnerable to contracting the virus. If anything, plan to utilize every resource to learn about your risks, attend meetings with others who are trying to quit, and visit with your primary doctor who can guide you towards proper protocol in warding off inflammation, potential infection, and have a lifelong journey of wellness.