COVID-19 has given some smokers an even more urgent reason to quit, and that is positive news, according to Russell Buhr, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
While data on the impacts of smoking and COVID-19 is still limited, “COVID-19 is a severe lung illness, and it does seem that those with the virus who smoke or vape are doing worse among the patients we are seeing,” Buhr says.
Smoking and vaping can alter the ability of the lungs to manage infection, and those effects apply to people who smoke cigarettes and marijuana, he says. “Both nicotine and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, can alter the immune defenses of the lung and can cause lung injury,” Buhr says.
Someone with already compromised lung health can be at higher risk for not only contracting the virus, but also for developing severe complications from it, he says.
“We don’t have a lot of control over what’s happening in the world right now, but quitting smoking is something that we can control,” Buhr says.
But it’s widely known that quitting, isn’t easy. “Even with COVID-19 as a motivator, quitting is hard to do. But medical professionals are here to help,” Buhr says. “If you are looking for a reason to quit, now is a good time to do it.”
To learn more about smoking cessation, visit our UCLA Respiratory Care Services page.