With the combination of the current COVID-19 pandemic and the influenza season on the horizon, WA’s top lung experts are urging smokers to consider quitting to improve their health outcomes.
Speaking on behalf a group of WA physicians and public health experts, Prof. Fraser Brims, Respiratory Physician at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Curtin Medical School, said studies suggest smokers who contract COVID-19 are two and half times more likely to be admitted to an intensive care ward or require life support.
“We see first-hand the damage caused by smoking and the devastation brought to family and friends left behind when a loved one dies due to smoking. And, more recently, we have been seeing the devastation from COVID-19,” Prof. Fraser Brims said.
“We know that smoking can put you at greater risk of getting chest infections and influenza, and emerging evidence suggests that smoking can be a significant risk factor for more severe symptoms of COVID-19; this is largely because COVID-19 affects our lungs.
“If you smoke, blood flow to your lungs and the transfer of oxygen to your blood is compromised. Your lungs may be already damaged, or you may already have reduced lung capacity caused by years, or even decades of smoking. This makes it harder for your lungs to fight COVID-19.
“There is also evidence that if you have other health conditions like cardiovascular disease and cancer, you are more likely to experience severe complications of COVID-19, and smoking can increase the risk of many of these conditions. “The hand-to-mouth action of smoking, and even e-cigarette use, means that smoking makes you more vulnerable to COVID-19, as you are touching your face and mouth more often. The risk of spreading COVID-19 can also be increased if you share any type of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, shisha or water-pipes.”
Make Smoking History Manager Libby Jardine said now is the time to give your lungs the best chance of beating viruses like COVID-19.
“Your body begins to repair itself the moment you quit smoking,” Ms Jardine said.
“Within days of quitting smoking, your lungs begin to heal so they become better at removing mucus from your airways. In weeks your immune system starts to recover, ensuring your body is better positioned to fight off infection. All of which increases your odds of preventing, and recovering from illnesses like COVID-19.”
Ms Jardine said the message to stop smoking is not new, but it’s more relevant and important now, than ever.
“We are spending more time at home with our loved ones than ever, making quitting and not smoking around them even more important than before. Having access to your immediate family can also provide greater support to quit,” she said.
“Quitting smoking has the potential to be life-changing, now more than ever. If you smoke, we urge you to use this time as incentive to stop once and for all.”
Leading physicians and public health group includes:
Dr Hamish Mace – Consultant Anaesthetist, Fiona Stanley Hospital and UWA
Prof. Fraser Brims – Respiratory Physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Curtin Medical School
Dr Annette McWilliams – Respiratory Physician, Fiona Stanley Hospital and UWA
Dr Samantha Bowyer – Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital & Linear Clinical Research and UWA
Dr Ruth Shean – President, Cancer Council WA
Prof. Kingsley Faulkner – President, Australian Council on Smoking and Health