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Smoking Increases Covid-19 Risk

Submitted by Katie Sears (Belisle), RN, PSIT, CTI

Community Health Department Supervisor/Community Health Charge Nurse

LCO Community Health Center

The top health advice to avoid getting SARS-CoV-2, originally known as COVID-19, is still distancing, washing your hands thoroughly, avoiding touching your face, and other actions recommended upon good medical guidance. Unfortunately, the virus is extremely contagious and there are now enough cases to understand the risk factors for developing severe respiratory symptoms of the virus after it is acquired. Several of these risk factors – cardiovascular disease, impaired immune system and diabetes – are associated with smoking cigarettes. Vaping has also led to lung damage, which makes the lungs more vulnerable.

There is enough agreement among top experts on the relationship between conditions caused by cigarette smoking and SARS-CoV-2 severity that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have issued related warnings.

Preliminary data reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the most respected publications in medical research, reported that smokers are 2.4 times more likes to develop severe complications.

Whether you’re exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or not, the CDC estimated before this outbreak that an average of 1,300 people in the U.S. die every day due to smoking-related illnesses.

The good news is that you can reap the health benefits of quitting quickly, according to U.S. Surgeon General reports.

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your blood pressure drops to a level close to that before the last cigarette. The temperature of your hands and feet increases to normal.

  • 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood begins to drop to normal.

  • 24 hours after quitting: Your chance of a heart attack decreases.

  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation and lung function improve.

  • 1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to clean the lungs and reduce infection.

  • 1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a tobacco user.

  • 5-15 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.

  • 10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing tobacco user. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas decrease.

  • 15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease falls to that of a non-smoker’s.

The American Lung Association (ALA) offers these tips to quit smoking:

· Identify your smoking triggers. You may be more apt to light up when you’re out with friends or on a long commute to or from the office. Physical distancing and working from home could provide the perfect opportunity to lay low for a little while and focus on your quit.

· Refresh your space and day. Whether it’s a specific chair on the porch or at the dining room table after a meal, doing a little feng shui with your living space can help you relearn certain rituals to avoid smoking.

· Stay connected. hangouts are going virtual, which is the perfect time to connect with others that are quitting smoking. Join ALA’s online support community and join the Quarantine Quitters.

You can also contact WNATN at for culturally tailored support in your community or visit the American Indian Commercial Tobacco Program at or by calling 1-855-372-0037.


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