Right now would be the perfect time to quit smoking, according to a lot of experts. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported online that smokers who contract COVID-19 are at increased risk for hospitalization for the illness, including the need to receive intensive care.
Those studies focused on cigarette smoking, but health officials think vaping may also put people at greater risk of COVID-19 complications. Quitting smoking is challenging at any time, but it may seem especially daunting now, during the unsettled, anxiety-ridden days of the current pandemic.
Though it may still take a lot of months for a smoker's lungs to heal from the damage caused by long-term smoking, your health can noticeably improve in the days and weeks after quitting in ways that could make a difference against the virus.
Although you can't reverse scarring to your lungs caused by smoking, there are a number of ways your lung health can improve in the short term, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
COVID-19 creates an added sense of urgency, and quitting smoking during the pandemic could increase your odds of fighting off the virus.
If you make the decision to quit, the cilia in your lungs are one of the first parts of your body to heal. These hair-like projections wave back and forth like a brush as air moves in and out of your lungs. They help your body fight off colds and infection, the CDC says. They also help clear mucus, so if they're not functioning as well as they should, mucus can build up in the lungs.
Your body's inclination to cough during infection helps activate the bodily process of clearing out mucus, called the "mucociliary escalator." That's a vital process in fighting the COVID-19 condition.
Besides lung-related issues, smoking can also cause risk to the heart that could help increase the possibility of cardiac arrest. Heart attacks are another cause of death in COVID-19 cases.
After you quit smoking, your blood becomes thinner and less susceptible to clotting, the CDC says. Which makes heart attacks less likely in people.
One reason this happens is that smokers inhale carbon monoxide, and thereby diminish their capacity to carry oxygen and make it harder for the heart to distribute blood throughout the body.
You may already be practising social distancing, washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face. In addition to all these, limiting or quitting smoking is yet another important aspect of being safe.
While for some, this period is extremely difficult for those addicted or dependent on nicotine - for others it may act as a good barrier to wash out the habit.