The Connection Between COVID-19 and Smoking
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases. Tobacco also is a major risk factor for other things like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes, which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by COVID-19.
Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths annually, including 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke. For every American who dies because of smoking, at least 30 are living with a serious smoking-related illness.
"People who are smokers definitely have increased risks for other infections - in general for that matter, not only with COVID-19. It is just because they injure the lining of our upper airways. It is a protective for infections. At the same time, they also lower your immune response to the infections," explained Estrellita T. Velez Jo, M.D., critical care medicine and pulmonary disease physician at OSF HealthCare Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Evergreen Park, Illinois.
"The link with smoking and the likelihood of developing COVID infections still remains unclear, but it is a known fact that quitting smoking still likely lowers the risk of infections and developing more severe infection. So the general rule is, and advice, is to quit smoking as a measure to improve overall health risk remains still a valid reason," Velez Jo continued.
World No Tobacco Day is Sunday, May 31, 2020. For individuals who sincerely want to quit, there are a number of programs available to help, including some through OSF HealthCare free of charge. The programs provide behavioral support and a multidisciplinary approach that includes a counselor, dietitian and cessation specialist. More information is available here.
For more information on COVID-19, including frequently asked questions, please visit the OSF HealthCare COVID-19 digital health hub. If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and it is not an emergency you can connect through Clare, a digital assistant available through the OSF website, or by calling the 24/7 nurse hotline at 833-OSF-KNOW (833-673-5669).