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  • Writer's picturedrwendyross

You and COVID-19 - Part 2 - Time to stop smoking!


Whether it is cannabis or tobacco, if you smoke or vape - you are putting yourself at higher risk of infection from COVID-19 and are more likely to develop a serious illness than if you were a non-smoker.

Studies on mice inhaling nicotine have shown that nicotine delays the clearance of the influenza virus. It is very likely to also delay clearance of COVID-19 from an infected person’s lungs.

Based on knowledge obtained from previous studies of lung infections, whether caused by bacteria or viruses, it is highly likely that both cigarette smoking and vaping will increase the risk of getting sick from the novel coronavirus and also increase the severity of the illness.

The role of smoking has been dramatically illustrated by the Chinese experience with the virus. Men seemed to be way more susceptible to the disease in China than women. A World Health Organization study from 2019 revealed that nearly 50% of Chinese men smoke, compared to less than 2% of Chinese women.

Smoking was identified as being the strongest risk factor for doing poorly in Chinese patients diagnosed with COVID-19 associated pneumonia. The odds of the disease worsening significantly including becoming fatal, were 14 times higher in people with a history of smoking than in non-smokers.

Unfortunately the popularity of e-cigarettes has boomed in the last few years, with many people thinking that they are a safe alternative to cigarette smoking. We are still learning about the negative effects of vaping and the long-term effects will take even more time to be revealed. However, these products do contain high concentrations of nicotine which will likely impact the clearance of any respiratory viruses.

Also, a recent study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research has found that as little as one month of vaping altered the lungs of people who had not previously vaped. There were new inflammatory changes in the lungs triggered in just that short period of time. Another study has showed that e-cigarettes contain acrolein, a herbicide used to kill weeds. This can cause acute lung injury and COPD which will affect the users’ ability to fight off COVID-19.

It is not all bad news, however. Don’t think that the damage has already been done and that there is no point in quitting now or cutting back. Surgeons have long suggested to their smoking patients to stop smoking for just 3 days before elective surgeries as this is known to improve outcomes and reduce risk of complications.

So too, with quitting smoking in the face of this pandemic - it is definitely worth making the effort! It almost immediately improves your chances of staying healthy. Literally within 20 minutes of having your last cigarette your heart rate will slow to normal. Your blood circulation will improve and your blood pressure will drop to a healthier level.

Within 72 hours - only 3 days, healthy cells will begin to replace damaged ones in your lungs and your lungs will start regaining their optimal function. So do not doubt that any effort to stop or cut back on smoking will be a very effective health prevention measure you can institute for yourself today!

For users of cannabis/ THC products it would be a good time to consider switching to edibles in order to preserve lung function.

Good Luck!

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