LEXINGTON — An early report from cases in China indicated people sickened with the Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) infection had worse outcomes if they smoked. While this one study noted an association, it will take more research to determine the extent of the risk smoking and vaping have on COVID-19 illness. While we don’t know for sure, there is certainly cause for concern based on what we do know about how smoking and vaping make users more susceptible to respiratory infections and illness.

Smoking and vaping both cause damage to our lung’s natural defenses against invasive bacteria and viruses.

Smoking and vaping expose the user to chemicals that weaken the immune system and limit the body’s ability to fight off infection.

The actions (hand to mouth) of smoking and vaping can increase the risk of exposure to bacteria and viruses. Smoking one pack a day results in around 300 hand-mouth contacts.

Getting help with guidance and medications, such as nicotine replacement products, can make the process easier and success more likely as only four to five out of 100 people who try to quit on their own succeed. Visit www.quitnowkentucky.com for resources you need to take control of your health.

In this time of concern with spreading COVID-19 infection, quitting smoking and vaping, even for a few weeks, can clearly reduce risk to both tobacco users and those who are exposed to tobacco smoke and vaping aerosol. We know quitting can feel like a challenge, particularly during a stressful time, so support is available.

Audrey Darville, Ph.D., is a tobacco treatment specialist at UK HealthCare and an associate professor in the UK College of Nursing.

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