Every year on the third Thursday of November, the American Cancer Society encourages smokers to participate in the Great American Smokeout by quitting tobacco. According to the American Cancer Society, by quitting – even just for a day – tobacco users take an important step toward a healthier life and help reduce their risk of developing cancer.
In 2020, taking the steps to quit smoking is even more advantageous due to COVID-19.
“Smoking can worsen local immunity of the lungs that can impair the body’s response to fight against infections,” said Dr. Pushan Jani, assistant professor in the Division of Critical Care Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and pulmonologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. “Smoking impacts lung function making it harder for the body to fight off the coronavirus and other respiratory diseases. Available research suggests that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 outcomes.”
The Journey to Quit
The journey to quit tobacco is different for everyone, but there are some steps that can be taken to aid the journey:
- Making the decision to quit – Sometimes the decision to quit can be the most difficult part. Once you have taken that important step, pick a day to start. You need to have enough time to prepare but not long enough that you have time to reverse the decision.
- Tell friends/family about the decision to quit – This will help to keep you accountable.
- Plan out your journey – This can include purchasing substitutes such as gum, carrot sticks or toothpicks. Also, research telephone helplines, support groups or medications you may need.
- Set up a support system – This may consist of friends or family members who have successfully quit in the past. Also, ask friends and family members who still do smoke to refrain from doing so around you.
- Cut back before your quit day – Cutting back before your quit day can better help you understand your own cravings. This can help you during your overall preparation.
E-Cigarettes and Smoking Cessation
E-cigarettes are often a part of smoking cessation, but e-cigarettes and vaping still have associated health risks.
“Even though, vaping has been shown to help with smoking cessation, multiple cases of vaping-induced lung injury have also been reported,” said Dr. Jani. “At present, most smoking cessation guidelines do not recommend vaping as an alternative to smoking cessation.”
Smoking and the Flu
Infectious disease experts at Memorial Hermann have said that this year it’s more important than ever to get your flu shot.
While a lot of focus has been given to COVID-19, Dr. Jani says that smokers can be at higher risk of lung-related complications from the flu as compared to non-smokers, making the decision to quit in 2020 even more valuable.
While smoking cessation can potentially help you with flu or coronavirus-related lung complications, it can also provide additional health benefits such as:
- Reduced risk of developing lung and other cancers.
- Reduced risk for heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
- Reduced respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
- Reduced risk of developing other lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Reduced risk for infertility in women of childbearing age.
Patients interested in participating in tobacco cessation programs can find a list of Memorial Hermann campuses here: https://cancer.memorialhermann.org/patients-caregivers/tobacco-cessation/