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We’re learning more about COVID-19 as it spreads across the globe, including risk factors that can complicate coronavirus and increase the severity of symptoms. One of the most prevalent of these factors is something that has put Americans at an increased risk for other deadly diseases for decades—smoking.
“The world already knows the harm that comes from smoking and using tobacco,” said Charles Shieh, M.D., a thoracic surgeon with Inspira Health who specializes in minimally invasive lung cancer surgery. “The coronavirus is yet another health issue made worse by smoking.”
Not only does traditional smoking decrease lung performance and capacity, so does vaping, according to Dr. Shieh.
“People have forgotten how bad vaping is since coronavirus began to dominate the headlines,” said Shieh. “Just because it isn’t on the front page anymore, doesn't mean it’s no longer a risk.”
COVID-19 causes a respiratory infection, similar to that caused by the flu, pneumonia or tuberculosis. The use of tobacco products has long been identified as a risk factor for these infections, as well as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease that is a major cause for concern in coronavirus infections.
One report that examined 1,099 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China showed that 12.4 percent of current smokers either died, required admission to the ICU or intubation. The rate for these occurrences among those who didn’t smoke was only 4.7 percent.
To fight the coronavirus’ effect on the Southern New Jersey community, Inspira’s Quit Center has adapted to confront the coronavirus pandemic head-on, now offering their services via phone and Zoom.
“We’re offering individuals that live in Cumberland, Salem and Gloucester counties that are interested in quitting the opportunity to consult with a member of our team of certified tobacco treatment specialists via phone,” said Donald Noblett, a certified tobacco treatment specialist and Inspira Cancer Grant Manager. “We’re also offering our six-week quit groups virtually.”
From the comfort of your own home, you can now use the services provided by Inspira’s Quit Center, which can strengthen your lung health in case of a coronavirus infection.
“Patients who are eligible can even have nicotine replacement patches or gum shipped directly from the Quit Center to their house, free of charge,” said Noblett. “If you’re not considered an essential worker, and you are still stuck at home, this time period might as well be used to benefit your health.”