Quitting Smoking in the Middle of Pandemic
In this worldwide pandemic, there is nothing more important than protecting your patients from COVID-19, the highly infectious virus that targets the lungs. Smoking increases the risk of COVID-19 related complications due to decreased lung function. This means those who smoke are more susceptible to contracting a more severe case of COVID-19, and have higher possibility of complications, such as pneumonia.
It is even more critical now than ever to elevate awareness of the dangers of tobacco products and good lung health—especially to our youth—the unfortunate up-and-coming smokers.
As physicians, you certainly know that there is a mountain of conclusive evidence that smoking increases the risk for respiratory infections, weakens the immune system, and is a major cause of a number of chronic health conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and of course lung cancer! No matter when your patients quit, their survival rate will increase.
During these incredibly stressful times, it may seem almost impossible, but quitting smoking can reduce the risk of COVID-19 related complications almost immediately. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), within 20 minutes of quitting, heart rate and blood pressure return to normal levels. After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the bloodstream drops to normal. Within 2-12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases. After 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
So, what does the World Health Organization (WHO) say about the coronavirus and smoking? According to the WHO, those who smoke are likely to be more vulnerable to infection.
Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase the risk of serious illness. Conditions that increase oxygen needs or reduce the ability of the body to use it properly will put patients at higher risk of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia.
It is also theorized that smokers are more at risk of infection because of the effect tobacco can have on ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme II) receptors. These gene expressions are in human cells, and notably in the respiratory system.
“COVID-19 needs to sit in this receptor to spread and duplicate, and we also know that smoking can up-regulate this receptor, so it can create more of these receptors for COVID-19 to sit within,” Dr. Kayat told Euronews.
“It may be that this is how smoking might contribute to a higher risk of serious consequences.”
A report in March by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) has also identified smokers as a “vulnerable group” to infection from COVID-19, due to the “higher susceptibility” of ACE2 receptors.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has also suggested that the very act of smoking increases the possibility of virus transmission.
Fingers are in contact with lips…and smoking products such as water pipes and vapes often involve the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 in communal and social settings.
There are many proven methods to quit smoking, including Nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and behavioral support. NRT consists of gums, patches, nasal sprays, and pills that supplement the nicotine found in cigarettes to help reduce withdrawal symptoms. Behavioral support can consist of support groups, whether in-person or internet based. Both of these methods used in conjunction have proved to have the best effectivity.
It’s never too late to quit and now is the time. That’s where MD Spiro can help you help your patients with smoking cessation and bacterial/viral products to keep your patients safe and healthy and to support quitting time.
Together, we can improve survival rates and flatten the curve. Check out our products on our new website, designed just for your patients and your practice at mdspiro.com.