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Smoking, Vaping and COVID-19

One of the most important things you can do RIGHT NOW to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to quit smoking and vaping.

*The following content is based on currently available information and it subject to change as more is learned about COVID-19.

 
  • Smoking and vaping can be harmful to the body, especially the heart and lungs. The harm done by smoking and vaping make the heart and lungs more vulnerable to other lung illnesses, like COVID-19.1
  • Smoking and vaping can have a huge impact on lung health. Tobacco smoking can cause lung cancer and chronic lung diseases (e.g. COPD), and it can also damage lung tissue.1 2 3 Although the long-term impacts of vaping are still being studied, current research suggests that vaping is not harmless and that exposure to chemicals from vaping could cause lung damage.4 COVID-19 mostly affects the lungs, often causing mild to severe lung damage.1
  • Smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke are major causes of heart diseases.1 2 3 Substances found in vaping devices have also been linked to heart disease.5 COVID-19 can affect the heart and worsen pre-existing heart conditions.1

Are those who smoke or vape more likely to get COVID-19?

  • Smoking causes inflammation in the body, a weakened immune system, and an increased risk of lung infections.3 Those who smoke are 2 to 4 times more likely to get an infection caused by bacteria and viruses.6 COVID-19 is a virus that causes lung infection, with symptoms ranging from mild, like those experienced with the flu or common cold, to severe, with complications including pneumonia, kidney failure, and death.7
  • Vaping may weaken the immune system in a similar way to cigarette smoking, which may put users at an increased risk of getting COVID-19.1
  • The act of smoking and vaping involves frequent contact between fingers and lips. This behaviour increases the possibility of passing the COVID-19 virus from contaminated hands, cigarettes and/or vaping devices to the mouth and into the body.1 6 8

Does smoking or vaping increase the severity of a COVID-19 infection?

  • Evidence from similar virus outbreaks (e.g. SARS, MERS) suggest that tobacco smoking could, directly or indirectly, lead to a higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and experiencing complications, severe symptoms, and/or death.1
  • Individuals with existing health conditions may be more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Emerging data from China, Italy, and the US suggest that people with health conditions such as heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer may be at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.1 9

What are the benefits of quitting during the COVID-19 pandemic?

  • While it is always a good idea to quit using tobacco and vapour products, quitting right now during the COVID-19 pandemic (PDF 107KB) may be especially important to reduce a person’s harm caused by this virus.
  • When a person quits, their body starts to heal itself almost immediately.10 For example, approximately 8 hours after quitting a person can breathe easier and oxygen levels have returned to normal, and after 24 hours the lungs start to clear out mucus.10 Other benefits of quitting occur as time goes on.10 For example, ten years after quitting a person’s risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half and the risk of heart disease becomes the same as a person who never smoked.10

Potential benefits of quitting during the COVID-19 pandemic include:1

  • Improved lung and heart health
  • Lower risk of becoming infected with COVID-19
  • Better ability to fight a COVID-19 infection
  • Better ability to manage other existing medical conditions
  • Reduced risk of death from severe COVID-19 infection
  • Experience milder COVID-19 symptoms
  • Faster recovery from a COVID-19 infection
  • Reduced risk of spreading COVID-19 to other people
 
Date of creation: April 23, 2020
Last modified on: May 29, 2020
 
 

References

1World Health Organization. (2020). Tobacco Free Initiative: Tobacco and waterpipe use increases the risk of suffering from COVID-19. Retrieved from
http://www.emro.who.int/tfi/know-the-truth/tobacco-and-waterpipe-users-are-at-increased-risk-of-covid-19-infection.html
2U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). A Report of the Surgeon General: How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: What It Means to You. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. Retrieved from
https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/2010/consumer_booklet/pdfs/consumer.pdf
3U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014). The Health Consequences of Smoking - 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. Retrieved from
https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/consequences-smoking-exec-summary.pdf
4Health Canada. (2020). Risks of Vaping. Retrieved from
https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/smoking-tobacco/vaping/risks.html#a3
5U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2016). E-cigarette Use among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health. Retrieved from
https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/e-cigarettes/pdfs/2016_sgr_entire_report_508.pdf
6Canadian Lung Association. (2020, April 17). COVID-19 – Coronavirus. Retrieved from
https://www.lung.ca/lung-health/lung-disease/covid-19-coronavirus/faqs
7Government of Ontario. (2020, April 28). COVID-19: Stop the Spread. Retrieved from
https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-stop-spread
8World Health Organization. (2020, March 24). Q&A on Smoking and COVID-19. Retrieved from
https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-on-smoking-and-covid-19
9Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 3). Preliminary Estimates of the Prevalence of Selected Underlying Health Conditions Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 – United States, February 12–March 28, 2020. MMWR Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2020; 69: 382–386. Retrieved from
http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6913e2
10Smokers’ Helpline. (2020). Thinking About Quitting, The Benefits of Quitting. Retrieved from
https://www.smokershelpline.ca/quit-plan-public/reading-article?ActivityCode=VOL4-ACT001&IsPublic=true