If You Smoke or Vape, Now’s the Time to Kick the Habit

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
April 17, 2020
If You Smoke or Vape, Now’s the Time to Kick the Habit

In this simplest terms, COVID-19 is respiratory tract infection. It can affect sinuses, nose, throat, trachea and lungs. About 80 percent of cases are mild, producing symptoms similar to the flu such as fever, fatigue, aches/pains, cough, sore throat, runny nose and congestion. With rest and some over-the-counter medications to help control symptoms, most people recover from a mild case COVID-19 within two weeks.

But the remaining 20 percent of COVID-19 cases can turn deadly. Just like influenza, your age, overall health and lifestyle influence how this virus affects you. And one of the biggest lifestyle factors that worsens COVID-19 infections is tobacco use -- specifically smoking or vaping.

COVID-19 is new, so there’s not a lot of studies available yet to help us fully understand this disease. As of now, experts are divided as to whether smoking or vaping raises your risk for contracting COVID-19. But keep in mind, studies have found that smoking and vaping break down your lung’s natural defenses and suppress immune and inflammatory response genes, weakening your immune system.

Experts are aligned that smoking or vaping raises the risk for complications and adverse outcomes. In fact, a history of smoking among COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, China was listed as a factor leading for poorer patient outcomes, according to a small study published in the Chinese Medical Journal.  

Smoking or vaping inflames the lungs. When a smoker/vaper comes into contact with COVID-19, their lungs inflame even more, making it difficult to breath and exacerbating smoking-related problems such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis.

One theory is based around ACE2 receptors, a protein that lives on the surface of cells throughout the body, including the respiratory tract. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, replicates and spreads throughout your body by injecting its genetic material into ACE2 receptors. Researchers think smokers may have a much higher number of ACE2 receptors than non-smokers, putting them at a higher risk for serious COVID-19 complications. 

Smoking and vaping also damage the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems. Adding COVID-19 to the mix makes both systems work even harder, raising the risk for a heart attack or stroke. This helps explain why 40 percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have underlying vascular disease.

If you want to quit vaping or smoking, work with your doctor to create a cessation plan. If you smoke cigarettes, your doctor may prescribe a nicotine replacement therapy or Chantix®, a prescription drug that helps smokers quit. You should also check out American Lung Association’s online Freedom from Smoking program.

If you don’t have a physician, consider partnering with MDVIP. MDVIP physicians have the time and resources to help you develop a personalized wellness program that could include smoking or vaping cessation. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

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Smoking and Diabetes Are Linked to Brain Calcifications / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / August 17, 2018
Tobacco Use on the Rise as Marijuana is Legalized / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / June 8, 2018
Vaping: What You Need to Know / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / September 13, 2019

About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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