We know that older individuals and those with serious health conditions are most at risk for developing severe complications from COVID-19. But, there’s another group of people who are also vulnerable to the illness: Those who smoke and/or vape.

There’s a lot that can happen to your lungs when you smoke or vape. Tiny hair cells called cilia that remove dirt, dust and germs are damaged by smoke and harsh chemicals from vaping, as are the blood vessels vital for distributing oxygen.

All of that smoke and aerosol inhaled increases inflammation in the lungs, making them less likely to respond appropriately to a viral infection like COVID-19.

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“Because COVID-19 is known to attack the lungs, those who smoke tobacco or who vape are at risk for developing some of the most severe forms of the illness,” says Thomas Bauer, M.D., a cardiothoracic specialist and medical director of thoracic oncology at Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

An early study from China showed that the odds of developing more serious symptoms from COVID-19 were up to 14 times higher compared to those who didn’t smoke.

Now Is The Time To Quit

There has never been a better time for smokers to quit and for individuals to protect their health by avoiding use of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

As COVID-19 spreads, it’s important to take steps to stay as healthy as possible. This includes doing all you can to protect your lungs.

If you smoke or vape, try to quit. If you live with someone who smokes, do what you can to limit your exposure to secondhand smoke or aerosol.

“There are more resources than ever to stop smoking, including many online and phone-based options,” says Dr. Bauer.

Whether it’s joining an online support group, text-based coaching or learning how to do it on your own – the important part is taking the first step.

Next Steps & Resources:

Hackensack Meridian Health’s New Jersey Quit Center is now offering individual counseling by phone, virtual platforms and text messaging, and will mail Nicotine Replacement Therapies to clients. Call 551-996-1632 to speak with a specialist or email: QuitCenter@HackensackMeridian.org.

Other resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care

Hackensack Meridian Health News Hub