Why Now Really Is the Time To Quit Smoking
I’ve been helping people to quit smoking for over a decade. Whilst there can be many motivations and reasons for quitting, health usually features pretty highly. That could be due to an existing health issue that smoking exacerbates, worry over getting ill in the future, or fears, worries and hopes around wanting a longer life for you and to be there for your loved ones. Naturally there can be several other reasons and motivations yet not wanting to risk further damage to your health, or a shorter life than you could have, are pretty powerful reasons to quit smoking.
I mention further on, that research has now strongly suggested that being a smoker can increase the risk that you get Covid-19, and that if you do get the disease, that you will get more severe symptoms (increasing the risk of hospitalisation). If ever there was a time to quit, during the pandemic could therefore well be that time.
As it happens, I’m just about to start reading a novel that involves a lead character having hypnotherapy to stop smoking (Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain). I’m hoping that hypnotherapy is accurately represented because often all I ever see in films and read in books is a load of mumbo-jumbo that isn’t based on anything remotely like reality. According to the blurb on the back of the book the hypnotherapy is successful but overwhelming stress leads to lighting up again (incidentally, one of the reasons I cover in my stop smoking sessions, strategies for handling stress once you’ve quit). However, he finds that smoking doesn’t give any sense of release from the stress like it once did (perhaps because nicotine is a stressor and smoking doesn’t help you relax at all). He then stumbles upon some criminal way to recapture that nicotine joy…(although there really is little joy from nicotine and smoking and turning to crime is certainly not recommended!). I’ll let you know how I get on with it once I’ve read it.
And so back to the research about the association between being a smoker and Covid-19 risk.
Current Smoking and Covid-19 Risk
In addition to the usual health reasons, it has never been more important for you to quit smoking than during this pandemic, due to the increased risk of contracting symptomatic Covid-19.
Way back during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, I remember hearing on the news that people who were smokers (or obese) were at a higher risk of Covid-19. However, whilst it has had the occasional mention, I haven’t seen too much about smoking and Covid-19 (although it’s possible that, due to smoking, these people have ‘underlying health issues’ when the data is reported).
Thanks to recently published research we now have a more definitive answer on the association between current tobacco smoking and the risk of developing symptomatic Covid-19. Hopkinson et al (Current smoking and COVID-19 risk: results from a population symptom app in over 2.4 million people. 2020) studied data from 2.4 million people and found that smokers were more likely to report Covid-19 symptoms and were also more likely to report more symptoms (a surrogate for disease severity).
These results provide compelling evidence for an association between current smoking and individual risk from Covid-19, including self-reported symptom burden and risk of attending hospital. Smoking increases both the likelihood of symptomatic disease and the severity of symptoms.
And so, in addition to all of the other health reasons for quitting smoking, can be added the substantially increased risk of developing Covid-19 symptoms, and the impact of smoking on experiencing a greater level of symptoms.(which could well then increase the likelihood of needing to go to hospital for treatment).
Even if all the other benefits of quitting smoking hadn’t reached the level where you took action to stop smoking, the current pandemic, and the associated risks of being a smoker, should be enough to persuade anyone that now is the time for quitting smoking.
Time To Quit? The Impact of Smoking and Vaping
Over recent years, many smokers have turned more towards e-cigarettes/vaping to replace some or all of their cigarette habit. There’s a common, general assumption that vaping is better for you (or at least not as bad for you) as smoking cigarettes.
As well as helping many people to quit smoking, I’ve also helped people to quit vaping too. There can be any number of reasons why someone would want to quit vaping, from being fed up with needing to do it, wanting freedom from being controlled by the habit, an increasing use of vaping (as it can often be used in more places) and some people find it a bit silly to be using it.
Recent research (Stokes et al (Association of Cigarette and Electronic Cigarette Use Patterns With Levels of Inflammatory and Oxidative Stress Biomarkers Among US Adults: Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study. 2020)) suggests that for health benefits you should either completely replace cigarette smoking with e-cigarettes or quitting the use of both products completely.
That is, mixing cigarette smoking and vaping isn’t as beneficial to your health as completely stopping smoking and only vaping, or quitting both altogether.
However attached you feel to your smoking and/or vaping habit, and even if there are times you think you need it or perhaps even somehow enjoy it, it certainly is possible to quit smoking completely and to give up vaping too.
To your health and happiness,
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Hopkinson, N.S., Rossi, N., El-Sayed_Moustafa, J., Laverty, A.A., Quint, J.K., Freidin, M., Visconti, A., Murray, B., Modat, M., Ourselin, S. and Small, K., Current smoking and COVID-19 risk: results from a population symptom app in over 2.4 million people. Thorax.
Stokes, A.C., Xie, W., Wilson, A.E., Yang, H., Orimoloye, O.A., Harlow, A.F., Fetterman, J.L., DeFilippis, A.P., Benjamin, E.J., Robertson, R.M. and Bhatnagar, A., 2020. Association of Cigarette and Electronic Cigarette Use Patterns With Levels of Inflammatory and Oxidative Stress Biomarkers Among US Adults: Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study. Circulation.