Smoking increases COVID health risk. Change your odds.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a viral infection that affects the lungs and airways. If you smoke tobacco, you are generally more likely to get these types of illnesses and may be more poorly if you do. This is because smoking damages your lungs and weakens your immune system.
We all want to protect ourselves and others right now. But if you smoke, you could be putting yourself and your loved ones at risk. Here we answer commonly asked questions about smoking and coronavirus (COVID-19).
Are people who smoke more at risk of coronavirus?
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory infection that affects the lungs and airways. People who smoke generally have a higher risk of developing these infections and are more likely to suffer worse symptoms. This is because smoking damages the lungs, heart and immune system, making it harder for your body to fight infections.
If you have an existing health condition that is caused by or made worse by smoking, such as poor lung health (asthma or COPD), high blood pressure (hypertension) or diabetes, then the best thing you can do for your health is to quit smoking.
For more information read Public Health England’s advice for smokers and vapers.
I thought nicotine can help protect against COVID-19, so how can smoking increase the risk?
COVID-19 is a new illness and therefore evidence is still emerging. Research into whether nicotine, not smoking, can help prevent or lessen symptoms of COVID-19 is still ongoing.
Nicotine is an addictive substance found in tobacco but on its own is relatively harmless. In the UK, nicotine replacement therapy, or ‘NRT’, is licensed by the UK’s medicines regulator for long-term use to help smokers quit. These reports shouldn’t put you off trying to quit, but encourage you to use alternative sources of nicotine, which are far less harmful than cigarettes, to help you quit smoking.
Is it too late if I quit smoking now?
For the majority of people, it is never too late to quit smoking. From the moment you quit smoking your body starts to heal itself, which will help your ability to fight off illnesses. And that’s not all. Breathing gets easier, you cough less, feel less stressed and anxious, your mood improves, and you’ll have more energy.
What is the advice for people quitting during pregnancy?
If you’re expecting a baby, you should quit smoking as soon as possible. When a pregnant person smokes or is exposed to second-hand smoke, oxygen passed to the baby is restricted, making the baby’s heart work faster and exposing the baby to harmful toxins – increasing the risk of stillbirth, miscarriage and birth defects.
Most nicotine replacement is safe to use during pregnancy and can increase the chances of quitting successfully. It can be hard to quit smoking at the best of times, so ask your midwife or local stop smoking service for help.
Am I still at risk if I used to smoke?
It’s not yet known how long is long enough to reduce the risk to the same as someone who has never smoked. But the lungs do heal relatively rapidly when you stop smoking, which could lower your risk of severe complications. It’s important to remember that stopping smoking has many health benefits. After you stop smoking, the chances of getting other chest or lung infections, heart disease and cancer will also reduce.
How can I protect others if I’m still smoking?
Second-hand smoke in the home and other enclosed spaces poses a risk to others. Babies and young children are particularly at risk from second-hand smoke, as well as older children and adults with existing health conditions.
If you smoke, you should take every effort to protect those around you from exposure. You should take at least seven steps from your home to prevent smoke from drifting back into the house and stay away from other people’s open windows, doorways and balconies as much as you can.
Fires caused by cigarettes can start very easily in homes when cigarettes aren’t fully extinguished before they’re disposed. Please follow safety advice from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and make sure cigarettes are fully out before disposing of them.
Is it still safe to use nicotine replacement or an e-cig/vape?
There is no evidence that COVID-19 has an impact on the safety or effectiveness of nicotine replacement. If you are already using, or want to start using, nicotine replacement to help you stop smoking then it is safe to do so, as long as you don’t share any devices that enter the mouth (such as e-cigs/vapes) with other people as this could increase the risk of spreading the virus.
Using nicotine replacement is a very popular and effective way of reducing cravings and managing withdrawal symptoms. When combined with expert support from stop smoking advisors, you are much more likely to quit smoking.
I want to quit smoking but I’m too anxious and stressed
Quitting smoking might be the last thing on your mind right now, especially if you’re feeling worried, anxious or bored. You might even be wanting to smoke more than usual if you’re out of your normal routine. But quitting smoking is proven to help boost your mood by relieving stress, anxiety and depression.
What will happen when I stop smoking?
When you first stop smoking, you may have a few side effects. You might feel restless, irritable or low. You might eat more, feel tired, or struggle sleeping. That’s perfectly normal and these are all signs of withdrawal that will usually go away after two to four weeks. Less common symptoms include a cough and sore throat, which are also usually temporary.
Using alternative forms of nicotine – such as patches, gum and e-cigarettes – can relieve the worst of the nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
I have stopped smoking recently, but I’m worried I might start again
If you have recently quit smoking then well done, that’s a huge achievement. If you’re concerned you might start smoking again, make a promise to yourself to follow the ‘not-another-puff’ rule. You can also use other sources of nicotine and the Smoke Free app to help manage your cravings and stay motivated.
Where can I get support to stop smoking right now?
Find details of local stop smoking services and support across all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester, or call the NHS Stop Smoking helpline free on 0300 123 1044.
Stop smoking services are an inclusive and safe space for all, including the LGBT+ community. If you’re pregnant, specialist support is available from your midwife to help you quit during pregnancy.
Simons D., Brown J., Shahab L., Perski O. The association of smoking status with SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalisation and mortality from COVID-19: A living rapid evidence review. Updated 23 April 2020.
Public Health England. COVID-19: advice for smokers and vapers. Published 29 May 2020.