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An increasing number of studies show that smokers may be more vulnerable to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) because they are at increased risk of severe symptoms and complications. Less is known about the risk of COVID-19 associated with vaping, but vaping might also have harmful health effects.

Risks associated with smoking and vaping

Smoking can reduce lung capacity and weaken the immune system. Smokers are at increased risk of developing respiratory infections, such as the flu or bacterial pneumonia. Smoking is also known to be the main risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People who have COPD are more prone to infections that can aggravate the symptoms associated with their lung condition.

People who smoke and who contract COVID-19 are thought to be at increased risk of complications (hospitalization, admission to intensive care, ventilatory support, death).

As yet, few studies have been done on the risk of COVID-19 associated with vaping. However, an increasing number of studies show that vaping could have harmful effects on the lungs and immune system. To learn more about the health risks of vaping, go to the page Electronic cigarettes.

Risk of transmission of COVID-19

Smoking and vaping involve frequent hand-to-mouth contact and sometimes sharing of products in some social situations, which could increase the risk of transmission of the virus according to the World Health Organization.

Recommendations

The pandemic may cause people to smoke more because they feel stressed and anxious about the situation: afraid of getting infected, feeling helpless, financial worries, being isolated, etc. However, having less social contact with coworkers and friends who are smokers could help people quit smoking. The current context would help even more, for in addition to the many benefits that usually come with quitting smoking, it could minimize the risks associated with COVID-19.

Resources

If you would like to quit smoking, have had a relapse or feel you might have a relapse, or if you simply want information, there are free and confidential resources that can help you:

There are proven pharmaceutical aids (nicotine replacement therapies, buproprion and varenicline tablets) that can help you quit smoking. With a prescription, they are covered by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec for 12 weeks and by private drug insurance plans. Your family physician or pharmacist can help you by prescribing a pharmacological aid that is appropriate for your situation. Pharmacists can prescribe nicotine replacement therapies and some even offer a delivery service. Contact your pharmacist for information.

Recommendations for people who smoke or vape

If you continue to smoke or vape, follow these measures to protect your health and the health of the people around you:

  • At all times, practice social distancing (2 metres) and follow the health recommendations for everyone;
  • Avoid sharing a cigarette or a vaping device with other people;
  • Avoid smoking indoors, for tobacco smoke is a health risk for other people, especially babies, children and pregnant women.