Smokers, vapers face increased health risk while smoking amid the COVID-19 crisis

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A warning to smokers, a leading health official said at Duke University said the habit could weaken lung defense which could make it harder to fight the coronavirus.

Dr. Momen Wahidi, a leading pulmonologist at Duke University Hospital said vaping can make it easier to spread COVID-19, for a few reasons.

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"When you vape or smoke, there's actually a lot of hand-to-mouth contact," Dr. Wahidi said. "We know that the COVID-19 virus infection spreads via droplets, droplets from the mouth and so, when you vape and smoke, you're touching your mouth and your face a lot. That means those droplets are coming on your hands, coming on other surfaces. That can increase the spread of the coronavirus."

If you cough while smoking or vaping, he said, you could be spreading the coronavirus if you're infected or asymptomatic.

In addition, he said smoking and vaping weaken the lung defense, which could make it harder to fight COVID-19, especially for smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

"So the likelihood of doing worse when you get the infection is higher because of your weaker lungs, if you smoke or vape," Dr. Wahidi said. "There's data now coming from China that smoking is one of the factors that make infections with COVID-19 have poorer outcomes."

A study published in the Chinese Medical Journal showed several factors lead to the progression of COVID-19 pneumonia, including history of smoking, age and more.

In a recent news conference, Secretary Mandy Cohen, of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said:
"If you were thinking about quitting smoking there's never been a better time," Cohen said. "Do it now and importantly, don't vape."
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Dr. Wahidi agrees.

"This is a great time to really quit smoking, quit vaping," Dr. Wahidi said. "We're all practicing social distancing. We're at home a lot. We're away from other friends or family members that smoke or vape. This is a great time to take care of ourselves. This is a great time to really make a choice and be healthy to protect ourselves."

Dr. Wahidi said some health care providers are doing virtual appointments to help people quit smoking and vaping.
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