Smokers are more likely to get seriously ill or die from Covid-19

Research shows that smokers are more likely to become seriously ill or die if they contract Covid-19 than non-smokers.

By Kim Moodie of rnz.co.nz

About 13 New Zealanders die every day from smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke. A host of health issues are also linked to the habit – cancer and lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, strokes – and now, the worst outcomes of the coronavirus.

The medical director of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, Dr Bryan Betty, said smoking compromises lung function.

“Lungs with cigarette smoke have a harder time clearing infection and mucus over time,” he said.

“So that infection can land on the lungs much more easily, which is one of the problems with Covid-19.

“We also know that smoking is associated with blood pressure, heart disease and a number of other conditions that produce poorer outcomes with Covid-19.”

Last year, World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that smoking increases the severity of respiratory illnesses and makes people more likely to get seriously ill from Covid-19. .

“Smokers have an up to 50% higher risk of developing serious illness and dying from Covid-19, so quitting smoking is the best thing smokers can do to reduce their risk of contracting this coronavirus. as well as the risk of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory diseases,” he said.

And one study conducted by researchers at King’s College London suggested that smokers who contracted Covid-19 were twice as likely to need hospital care and tended to report more symptoms than non-smokers.

Corn the search also found around half of smokers surveyed in New Zealand, Australia and the UK had heard little or nothing about the risks of Covid-19 for them.

Quitline service manager Jordan Taiaroa said the number of people wanting to quit the habit for good had increased in the last three months of 2021.

“We’ve seen an increase of about 250 people coming into the service,” he said.

“We can attribute this to different things: the New Years resolution period that everyone is aiming to try and stop, as well as the recent lockdown that had just ended and people motivated to continue what they were doing all along. long lockdown to quit smoking, or resign after lockdown.”

Nearly 28,000 people signed up for Quitline services in the year ending June 2021, Taiaroa said.

Smoking rates in New Zealand are falling: 10.9% of adults are smokers, but the rate is higher among Maori and Pasifika: 25% for Maori and 19% for Pasifika.

And the pandemic is not helping. Last year, researchers found that people who felt distressed and lonely during the country’s first lockdown were three times more likely to smoke more.

Lealailepule Edward Cowley, from Hāpai te Hauora, said stress levels were high and people trying to quit needed support.

“It’s a whole community approach that’s going to get people over the line, because those people who are going to go to heaven too soon are our brothers, sisters, mother, uncles, cousins, family members,” did he declare.

“So if someone in my family was in that position, it would be up to me to be able to have that conversation, support them or try to motivate a quit attempt on their part, because I want to keep them longer. .

“The more conversations we have within our families, within our community, the easier it will be for people to access services that they have never been able to do in the past, because now we have an abundance options.”

Professor Emeritus Robert Beaglehole, president of Action for Smokefree 2025 (ASH), said smoking cessation programs are doing all the right things, but they need to be more embedded in people’s lives.

“There are still 380,000 people who smoke daily and they all need support, encouragement and understanding to help them move away from cigarettes, perhaps first to less harmful products and then ultimately, not to smoke themselves,” Beaglehole said.

“There is no point in punishing people, blaming them, telling them what to do, we have to accompany them in their communities. And we can do a lot more in this regard.”

Beaglehole said more investment in community outreach programs to support people who smoke, alongside mass media campaigns promoting smoking cessation services, would go a long way.

“It’s very difficult to quit smoking. We need more people to quit more often, and we need to help them,” he said.

Smokers should also be encouraged to replace cigarettes with traditional nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches, gum and vaping on the road to becoming smoke-free, he said.

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