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Can smoking or vaping put you at greater risk during COVID-19? While this is a new disease and much research remains to be done, experts believe that smokers may be more vulnerable to the most dangerous impacts of COVID-19.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites smoking as a contributing factor in developing severe symptoms:
“Because it attacks the lungs, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 could be an especially serious threat to those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape.”
One reason for the increased risk is that smoking and vaping both cause damage to the lungs, leaving the tissue more susceptible to infection. What’s more, smoking attacks the very systems that fight respiratory viruses.
“Tobacco use has been proven to harm the immune system and airway lining cells that contain cilia on their surface, which are our essential defenders against viruses like COVID-19,” according to the American Lung Association’s Chief Medical Officer Albert Rizzo, M.D
Yet another concern for those who smoke or vape is the simple fact that it requires people to bring their hands to their faces. The World Health Organization’s website notes that “the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth.” Worse still are smoking products, such as water pipes, which include shared mouthpieces.
Cutting back, while certainly helpful, won’t necessarily eliminate your risk. In fact, if you live with someone who smokes, that can also make you more vulnerable.
“Even an occasional cigarette or secondhand smoke has been linked to increased risks from acute respiratory distress syndrome,” said thoracic surgeon Dr. Matthew Steliga in a recent US News & World Report article highlighting the connection between smoking and vaping and COVID-19.