That severe covid-19 courses can be fatal for smokers is well known. Studies also indicate that this also applies to people who have smoked a lot for a long time and are now non-smokers.
Nevertheless, no matter how long you’ve been smoking, you should use the pandemic as an opportunity to get rid of cigarettes, advises internist and pulmonologist Prof. Stefan Andreas.
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The World Health Organization WHO recommends the same. "The risk of developing severe covid-19 and dying is up to 50 percent higher for smokers than for others", WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva. "Quitting smoking, therefore, is the best thing smokers can do to reduce both their risk of serious covid 19 disease and their risk of developing cancer and heart and respiratory disease."
Why the cilia are important
Because smoking, for example, damages the cilia. "They are virtually the garbage disposal of the lungs. They carry mucus and bacterial debris upward so that it can be coughed up.", explains the physician. With regard to a possible infestation of the lungs with the coronavirus, this is an important function. If you stop smoking, the cilia recover fairly quickly.
"Quitting smoking reduces the risk of severe covid-19 disease relatively quickly", says Stefan Andreas. It does not get better after one day, but day by day. "One should in no case continue to smoke, because one says to oneself: It is too late to stop anyway!", says the pulmonologist.
What about e-cigarettes?
In general, cigarette smoke causes inflammation in the respiratory tract. Viruses and bacteria are more likely to take hold there. "There’s nothing in the lungs that smoking doesn’t damage", says the head of the specialist lung clinic Immenhausen in Hesse, who is also an advisory board member of the German Lung Foundation.
E-cigarettes are also not good, says the expert. Their consumption likewise increases the risk for severe courses of covid-19.
The role of pack years
It’s clear that the longer and more you smoke, the more damage – including permanent damage – you do to your body. Therefore, former smokers are just as likely to have a coronavirus infection that is severe in them. Although the cilia, for example, quickly improve and the risk decreases somewhat as a result – it still remains elevated compared to people who have never smoked.
In terms of numbers, it’s also about 30 percent higher in former long-term smokers with 30 pack-years (so, for example, 30 years of one pack a day or 15 years of two packs a day) than in people who never smoked, says prof. Andreas. Factors such as age – former longtime smokers are often quite old – or pre-existing conditions are not even factored in, he said.
Pay attention to protection
Precisely because their risk of a severe course is increased, current and former smokers should protect themselves particularly well against a possible infection with the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2, advises the physician.
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This means following the recommended hygiene rules for spacing, hand washing and wearing a mask – and if possible, smokers should put their cigarettes aside for good.
- News agency dpa
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