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As you have heard by now, social distancing and handwashing can limit the spread of COVID-19, but did you know that smokers are at a much higher risk of severe illness from the disease? Did you also know that use of e-cigarettes weakens the immune defenses in a way that can leave you more susceptible to COVID-19?
A report from China during the early part of the pandemic found that among patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 27% of smokers’ conditions got worse, while 97% of non-smokers’ conditions stabilized or improved.
The use of electronic cigarettes elevates your risk. We know that use of electronic cigarettes can increase cough and phlegm. Propylene glycol and glycerin – what electronic cigarette liquids dissolve the nicotine in – are toxic to cells in the lung, and that addition of commonly used flavoring chemicals increases the toxicity to lung cells. There is also evidence that electronic cigarette use can impair the function of neutrophils, an important type of white blood cell that fights infections. Additionally, studies in mice found that two weeks of exposure to e-cigarette aerosol decreased their ability to defend themselves against a common bacteria, Streptococcus pneumonia, and a common virus, influenza A.
As the COVID-19 pandemic emerges in the greater Houston area, the time is right to stop smoking and vaping.
If it is difficult for you to stop, there are resources available to help. These include over-the-counter medications, such as the nicotine patch or gum, a prescription from your doctor of varenicline (brand name Chantix), and online at smokefree.gov or by phone at 1-800-YES-QUIT or 1-800-QUIT-NOW.