As Hawaii residents face the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s essential that everyone protect their health and reduce the spread of this serious lung infection with public health measures like thorough handwashing, cleaning surfaces and social distancing. Additionally, the American Lung Association in Hawaii reminds us that an important step to immediately improve health and possibly avoid the most serious symptoms of this disease is to quit smoking and vaping.
Everyone is at risk for serious complications from COVID-19, especially those who are more vulnerable, such as older adults or those with a chronic lung disease or immunocompromised. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control has also identified smokers as a group of people at higher risk for severe illness if they contract the disease.
“It’s important to prevent getting COVID-19 in the first place, but it’s also essential that we do all we can to keep our lungs healthy to avoid the worst effects of the disease,” said Pedro Haro, Executive Director for the American Lung Association in Hawaii. “Smoking and vaping harms the lungs, leaving lung tissue inflamed, fragile and susceptible to infection. And tobacco use has been proven to harm our immune system and airway-lining cells that contain cilia on their surface, which are our essential defenders against viruses like the novel coronavirus. Without them working properly, the lungs may be left undefended against the virus and susceptible to the most severe complications of the infection.”
While more research into COVID-19 is needed, a recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine found people who smoke were 2.4 times more likely to have severe symptoms from COVID-19 compared to those who did not smoke.
“We have long known that quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do for your health. And it’s especially important now as quitting smoking and vaping can better equip your body to fight off this disease,” said Dr. Albert Rizzo, Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association. “As a physician, I know how hard it can be for many people to quit smoking. And it may take several quit attempts to be successful. Right now, as many people are sitting at home or even in quarantine, it may be the perfect opportunity to make that quit attempt.”
You might be isolated or social distancing, but you don’t have to quit alone. For those ready to make a quit attempt, Dr. Rizzo recommends proven effective quit smoking methods and offered the following tips:
- Identify smoking or vaping triggers. Social distancing and working from home could provide the perfect opportunity to identify triggers and reshape responses, keeping someone trying to quit tobacco-free. If working from home or in social isolation, rearranging a living space – even moving furniture in the home – can help reset rituals to avoid that trigger.
- Get proven support. Make the most of a quit attempt with proven effective quit smoking or vaping resources. Join Freedom From Smoking quit smoking program or call the Lung HelpLine (1-800-LUNGUSA), and tobacco cessation counselors will offer personalized counseling support to walk those looking to quit through the step-by-step process of effective tobacco cessation methods. Services are also offered through the Hawaii Tobacco Quitline by calling 1800-QUIT-NOW.
- Stay connected. While communities may be in social isolation, when it comes to getting support for quit smoking no one is alone. Join our online support community for support to quit for good.