Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in England

Smoking (including shisha, cannabis, or any other substances) is a highly addictive habit and tobacco is carefully engineered to deliver a steady dose of nicotine to your brain. This causes the release of feel good chemicals that can reduce feelings of anxiety or stress.

With the constant news coverage and changes to daily life in the wake of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, quitting smoking may feel more difficult than ever, but it’s important to remember that smoking for stress reduction is a myth and that smoking actually increases feelings of irritability and anxiety.

The health dangers of smoking are well documented, even without considering the added risk from COVID-19, smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in England with one in two smokers dying from a smoking related disease.

Some of the key risks include:

  • Smoking causes 16 types of cancer including mouth, liver, pancreatic, stomach, bowel and ovarian cancers and is responsible for up to 70% of all lung cancer cases.
  • Smoking increases your risk of stroke by 50% and doubles your risk of a heart attack.
  • Smoking can cause infertility and impotence.
  • Smoking increases the risk of lung infections. Smokers are five times more likely to get flu than non-smokers and twice as likely to develop pneumonia.

Smoking harms your immune system leaving you less protected against COVID-19 and all viruses like it. As a result, this puts you at a higher risk of respiratory infections which are likely to last longer and to be more serious than they would be for a non-smoker.

Research is showing that smokers are more likely to have complications and are sadly more likely to die from COVID-19 than non-smokers.

The single most important thing a smoker could do, would be to stop smoking, not just for this virus but for all respiratory tract infections”.

Dr ruth sharrock, Respiratory Consultant at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead

The rapid spread of COVID-19 means that quitting smoking is now more vital than ever to reduce health risks and to prevent our healthcare service coming under further pressure as it works to battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

As many non-smokers are also on lockdown with someone who smokes and who may have reduced access to smoke outdoors, it’s also important to consider the impact that your addiction may have on those around you.

You’re putting your children at risk

Breathing in second hand smoke increases the risks of all diseases caused by smoking and children who breathe in second hand smoke are at increased risk of chest infections, coughs and even meningitis.

You may think that smoking out of a door or window will reduce the risk of second hand smoke, but around 80% of cigarette smoke is invisible and as cigarettes contain Carbon Monoxide (CO), a colourless, odourless and highly dangerous gas, no matter how careful you are, those around you will breathe in the poisonous fumes.

The ‘Today is The Day’ website can give further information on protecting those around you.

The best way to reduce the risk for yourself and those around you is to quit completely and the fantastic news is that your body starts to heal just 20 minutes after you quit. If you quit by the age of 40 you will reduce your risk of death from smoking by 90%.

  • After 20 minutes your pulse rate will return to normal.
  • After 8 hours Nicotine and CO levels in your blood reduce by more than 50% and your oxygen levels have returned to normal.
  • After 48 hours there is no Nicotine or CO in your body and your lungs start to clear out tar and other debris.
  • After 2-12 weeks your circulation will improve making physical activity easier.
  • After 3-9 months your breathing will improve as your lung function increases by up to 10%.
  • After 10 years your risk of lung cancer drops to half that of a smoker.
  • After 25 years your risk of a heart attack is the same as someone who has never smoked.

There are many ways to improve your chances of quitting:

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy such as patches, gum or lozenges can be used to deliver Nicotine to your body without harmful chemicals and are free from most stop smoking services, available on the NHS with a prescription or available to buy over the counter in supermarkets and pharmacies.
  • Champix and Zyban are prescription stop smoking medications that block the action of Nicotine in your brain and help to reduce cravings.
  • E-cigarettes are not a stop smoking medication and although they are not harm free they are thought to be at least 95% safer than smoking.

For more support with stop smoking medication see NHS Smokefree Medicines and for advice on e-cigarettes see NHS Smokefree E-Cigarettes.

Only 3 out of 10 people that quit ‘cold turkey’ without support will quit successfully. You’re far more likely to quit smoking for good with the right support and people who use a stop smoking service are 4 times more likely to quit compared to those that go it alone.

Although support face to face is not currently possible there are plenty of resources online and many services are running a remote option. You could also follow @QuitforCovid on twitter or at ‘Today is the day’ for more information on quitting and details of twitter clinics with smoking cessation experts.

If you’re going to give up smoking, this is the time to do it.

We provide a free Be Smoke Free service, offering advice and support during your quit.

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