Updated: 2020, Jul 1

Has The Fear of the Coronavirus Encouraged More People to Quit Smoking and Vaping?

Research indicates that smokers and vapers are at increased risk of more serious illness if they get infected with the novel coronavirus.
Has The Fear of the Coronavirus Encouraged More People to Quit Smoking and Vaping?
Coronavirus protection and health harm. (Image/Shutterstock)

We all know that smoking damages the lungs; and while vaping and e-cigarettes do not contain the same chemicals as tobacco, you are still inhaling potentially harmful chemicals into your lungs. People have recently died from severe tissue damage, with the suspect cause being vaping.

Despite the risks, and despite the fact that most people who smoke want to quit, the addiction to smoking is one of the strongest addictions you can form. Nicotine is in the top five most addictive substances in the world, and giving up smoking also means giving up a ritual.

Now, we are in the middle of a pandemic that attacks the respiratory system. Smokers are more likely to suffer a greater amount of injury and need the support of a ventilator if they contract the coronavirus, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has implored people to quit smoking in order to mitigate the severity of the illness.

Just like knowing that smoking may cause lung cancer and heart disease doesn’t stop people from picking up a smoking habit, however, knowing there is a virus that more viciously attacks the already weakened lungs of smokers does not make it any easier to quit. Wanting to be healthier and doing what it takes to be healthier are two of the hardest things to bring together for most people.

Add to that, the stress of potentially being out of work or moving your office to your home, suddenly having to make enormous life adjustments, and very few people are motivated to even try to quit.

As one alternative to quitting, some people have turned to smokeless tobacco alternatives that deliver pharmaceutical-grade nicotine without the smoke inhalation. This seems to be the best choice for smokers 21 and over who want to quit smoking or vaping but are not quite ready to give up the nicotine or the ritual.

smoking vaping coronavirus

Smoking or Vaping May Increase the Risk of a Severe Coronavirus. (Image/Shutterstock)

Quitting to Protect Your Lungs From the Coronavirus

We are currently facing a pandemic virus that attacks the lungs. More than 100 thousand Americans have died, with over 370 million deaths worldwide as of the writing of this article. The virus has ravaged nursing homes and other facilities where people live communally, and we have seen heartbreaking images of hospitals and morgues being overwhelmed.

At first, we thought this was something that only affected people in high-risk categories—like those over 60, people with heart disease or autoimmune disorders, etc.—but we now know that there are other key risk factors in otherwise healthy people, and one is smoking. If you smoke, you are more likely to contract the virus, and more likely to require breathing assistance like oxygen and ventilators. More likely to die.

This is not some far-off projection like lung cancer and heart disease that are difficult to imagine until they happen to you. This is a very real and present danger, and COVID-19 progresses quickly.

Even though this is one of the most stressful times of many people’s lives, quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do for yourself right now, in order to protect yourself from contracting a virus that kills. Numbers of people trying to quit are down, but that does not mean that you have to become a statistic.

Quitting Smoking During a Pandemic

Find Your Motivation

You need a clear and concrete motivation in order to successfully quit smoking. Health, money, and longevity are all good options, but it is important to be specific about it. Think about what it would be like to be on a ventilator if you get sick.

Think about how much money you will save (which you may need during the economic downturn that we are facing). Think about being there for your family. The fact that secondhand smoke affects the ability of those in your household to fight off respiratory infections is another strong motivator.

Find Your Method

You have so many options available to you now, and you do not necessarily have to use one at a time. Double or even triple up on your tactics and your tools to ensure success. You can combine nicotine replacement therapy, tobacco alternatives, or reduction methods with counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, or hypnosis. The possibilities are far-reaching, and you can customize your method to fit your needs and lifestyle.

Combat Withdrawal

It is important to educate yourself about what withdrawal symptoms look and feel like so you are never caught off guard. Know that a cigarette craving usually only lasts about 15-20 minutes, and the most intense cravings will start to dissipate in 2-5 days.

The worst of it is very temporary, and you can use this time to develop new, healthier habits that you have been wanting to make time for, like exercise and meditation. Or pick up that hobby you’ve been longing for, to keep your hands busy.

Remember That You are Not Alone

Reach out to your friends and family for encouragement. They are certain to be thrilled that you are taking steps to make yourself healthier. Most people also need outside support and resources.

You can find local and virtual support groups, text lines, and apps to help cheer you on and provide the information you need in order to make it through—from the roughest time all the way to the moment you realize you haven’t even thought about a cigarette in a long time.

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Dr. Keith Kantor

Dr. Kantor has been an advocate of natural food and healthy living for 30 years. He is also on the Board of Directors for NAMI.org in G

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