Vaping and Smoking during COVID-19: No Better Time to Quit than Now
Both regular tobacco and electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use, also referred to as "vaping," are known to "damage the respiratory system, potentially increasing the risk of experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms, a positive diagnosis, and exacerbated health outcomes."1 Smoking tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, little cigars, pipe tobacco, and "roll-your-own" tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States.2 Additionally, vaping—mistakenly viewed as a safer alternative to smoking—was implicated in a pre-COVID-19 national outbreak of e-cigarette-associated lung injury, resulting in 2,807 cases and 68 deaths in the U.S.3 E-cigarettes and vaping are particularly threatening to the nation's youth and young adults, as those who have vaped may be up to five times more likely to test positive for COVID-19 than their peers who do not vape.4 Moreover, many young people are not aware of the connection between vaping and COVID-19 infections.4
In the era of COVID-19, smokers and vapers may be at greater risk of infection because the act of smoking and vaping increase the likelihood of touching the face and gathering in designated tobacco use areas where it may be difficult to practice social distancing, and decrease the likelihood of wearing a face mask properly.
One of the main reasons people continue to smoke and vape is nicotine – the highly addictive component in tobacco.2 Given the adverse health effects associated with smoking and vaping, quitting is one of the most important things you can do for your health. If you're ready to quit, you don't have to do it alone. Every year, the American Cancer Society puts on the Great American Smokeout5 . The Great American Smokeout is an annual event that encourages and supports smokers and vapers to plan to quit or to quit on November 19, 2020.
Quitting is hard. It may be helpful to break this big task down into smaller and manageable pieces. You don't have to stop smoking, vaping, or both, in one day. Start with day one.5 By participating in the Great American Smokeout, you'll be joining thousands of people across the country who smoke and vape, taking a step towards a healthier life.
For those who think they've been smoking, vaping, and/or using other tobacco products for so long that it's too late for them to quit, nothing could be further from the truth. Take it from Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who noted, "it is never too late to quit."2 Quitting improves your health, now, and over the long term, no matter your age or how long you have used tobacco.
As you prepare to take the first step, mark your calendar for November 19, 2020 and then take these actionable steps: 5
* Tell family and friends your Quit Day.
* Get rid of all the cigarettes, vaping, and other tobacco products in your home, car, and work.
* Stock up on oral substitutes – sugarless gum, carrot sticks, hard candy, cinnamon sticks, coffee stirrers, straws, and/or toothpicks.
* Talk to your healthcare provider about quit options such as over-the counter or prescription nicotine replacement therapy or other medicines that can help with cravings.
* Will you attend a tobacco cessation class? If so, sign up now.
* Today, we know more about the science of quitting than ever before. Getting help through a combination of supportive counseling (either in person or online: YouCanQuit2 and medications significantly increases your chances of quitting successfully.
* Set up a support system. This could be a group program or a friend or family member who has successfully quit and is willing to help you.
* Practice saying, "No thank you, I don't smoke/vape."
* Ask family and friends who still smoke/vape to not do it around you, and not to leave cigarettes, vape, or other tobacco products out where you can see them.
To say that quitting smoking and vaping is hard is an understatement. Remember that it is a journey. COVID-19 is forcing a lot of changes in our lives. Make a positive change for yourself and quit with the help of the Great American Smokeout.
1. Gaiha, S.M., Cheng J. and Halpern-Felsher B. 2020. "Association Between Youth Smoking, Electronic Cigarette Use, and Coronavirus Disease 2019." Journal of Adolescent Health 67(4): 519-523.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2020. Smoking Cessation. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.
3. "Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products" Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last modified February, 25 2020.
4. "Are young people aware of link between vaping and COVID-19?" TruthInitiative.org, last modified August, 31 2020.
5. "Great American Smokeout," Cancer.org, last modified 2020.