As the government again highlights the risks to smokers from COVID-19, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) is joining health professionals in calling on smokers to #QuitforCOVID.
Speaking in the commons yesterday, in response to a question from Bob Blackman, MP chair of the APPG on smoking and health, secretary of State for Health, Matt Hancock said: ‘It is abundantly clear from the research into previous coronaviruses that smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse.’
This echoes the advice of the chief medical officer from last week’s Health Select Committee who said: ‘If you are going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it.’
Dr Charlie Kenward from Bristol is urging his patients to #QuitforCOVID: ‘I was in surgery talking to a mother with her nine year old son. She works as a carer, so I asked if she was worried about the virus. She said she was worried about catching it because she is a smoker.
‘I asked her, why not quit? she looked at her son who looked back at her and nodded. This is something all smokers can do now so that’s why I’m asking smokers to #QuitforCOVID.’
Dr Kenward is part of the team helping to plan the COVID-19 response for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire and he added: ‘We are doing everything we can to keep people as safe and healthy as possible through this crisis.
‘Stopping smoking also helps improve heart and lung conditions, wound healing and many other health conditions which will all carry on at the same time as COVID-19. Stopping smoking remains the single most effective thing people can do to improve their and their family’s health both now and in the future.’
Some media are also reporting that vapers face additional risks from coronavirus. The evidence for this is far less clear. Smokers who have switched to vaping should be reassured that this is better for them than smoking.
Exposure to secondhand smoke is also likely to exacerbate the risks from coronavirus, alongside the other harms it causes. Therefore, smokers who are self-isolating and are not able to go outside to smoke should seek alternatives such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) or e-cigarettes to protect the people around them from harm.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: ‘This is a worrying time for all of us and people are looking for what they can do to protect themselves and protect others.
‘For smokers, quitting or temporarily stopping during this outbreak is one of the best things they could do right now. Many stop smoking services are looking at how they can support people remotely and I urge people to also use other sources of nicotine such as NRT to help them with the cravings.’
Smokers and healthcare professionals can also get further advice and support about quitting.
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