Nebraska's state Public Health Director, Dr. Gary Anthone, spoke April 20 about the elevated risk that COVID-19 poses to smokers. He urged Nebraskans to quit smoking in order to lower the likelihood of medical complications from COVID-19.
"We all know how serious COVID-19 can be. It's an even more serious threat for those who smoke tobacco or marijuana or who vape," Anthone said.
When people inhale combustible products with chemicals, it causes inflammation in the lung airway passages and can lead to severe injury.
"When you add that effect to a viral load in the lungs, it can be devastating," he said.
Among people with COVID-19, a recent study shows that those who smoke are two-and-a-half times more likely to get severe symptoms than those who do not smoke. This holds true for cigarette and marijuana smoking, as well as vaping.
Smokers are already at higher risk of lung disease and have decreased lung capacity. For these reasons, smokers who get COVID-19 are more likely to need to go on a ventilator and to stay on one.
"In my 40 years as a surgeon, we always counseled patients to discontinue smoking prior to an elective surgery to decrease the risk of pulmonary complications," Anthone said. "Studies show that stopping smoking for even two weeks can make a difference in your body’s ability to recover from surgery or fight an illness."
For Nebraskans who are ready to stop smoking or vaping, the Nebraska Quitline can provide help and support: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).