By: Dana Stevens
In the time of COVID-19, we are reminded every day of the importance of lung health and have all come to appreciate breathing clean fresh air. We are reminded that what we do affects other people’s health. Likewise, what they do impacts our health.
Just as we can’t see the coronavirus or know if we have been exposed to it, secondhand smoke often spreads undetected throughout buildings, apartment complexes, and even our outdoor spaces. It carries with it gasses, toxins, particulate matter, and carcinogens.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now includes smokers in its list of higher risk for severe illness. Complications for smokers who are infected with COVID-19 include heart disease and diminished lung function and respiratory illness.
Other health professionals are also sounding the alarm about smoking and vaping to their list of risks for COVID-19. Elise Tong, MD, MS and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of California, Davis says, “Being smoke and tobacco-free is as important as washing your hands and covering your cough for your health and the health of your family and community.” She cites three key points:
- Smoking doubles your risk of developing respiratory infections;
- Smoking doubles your risk of getting sicker from COVID-19; and
- Vaping can also harm lung health.
Secondhand smoke is dangerous to everyone. Even among adults who have never smoked, secondhand smoke can lead to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and other respiratory illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health Since 1964, approximately 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.”
Second hand smoke causes many health issues in children, including ear infections, more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory symptoms (such as coughing, sneezing, and shortness of breath) and respiratory infections (bronchitis and pneumonia), and a greater risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
COVID-19 has brought into focus the health impact of breathing shared air. As we focus on protecting ourselves, our loved ones, and our community from the spread of this deadly virus by distancing, washing our hands, and wearing face coverings, let’s also remember to avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. La Mesa continues to protect residents and visitors from exposure to secondhand smoke in public places through public policies that put health first.
If you want help, call the California Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-NO-BUTTS or visit www.NoButts.org/COVID, which offers free assistance to quit and stay quit. Research shows the California Smoker’s Helpline to be highly effective. You can also visit Tobacco Free CA’s webpage to learn more about the effects of smoking and vaping on COVID-19. We may not know everything about the link between COVID-19 and smoking, but we do know quitting smoking will help you lead a healthier life.