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Why there has never been a better time to quit than now

June 2, 2020


Cancer Council Australia

Why there has never been a better time to quit than now

COVID-19 has brought with it uncertainty, anxiety and more change than any of us could have anticipated. However, with a growing body of evidence suggesting smoking could increase the risk of complications from COVID-19, perhaps there is one thing we can be sure of: now is the time to quit smoking.

As we learn more about COVID-19 we are also learning that people who smoke are more likely to have severe complications, including the need for intensive care support. In the UK, analysis of data from two million users of a symptom tracker app suggested a 26 per cent increase in development of COVID-19 symptoms in current smokers.

There are a couple of reasons why smoking could increase the risk of serious complications from COVID-19.The first, is that smoking increases inflammation in the lungs and damages the air tubes and sacs in the lungs so that they simply do not work as well. COVID-19 also affects the lungs and disrupts the transfer of oxygen in the air sacs, which creates further breathing difficulties.

The second, is that smoking compromises the immune system, meaning the body has more trouble fighting the COVID-19 infection, and also increases the risk of getting a secondary infection in the lung.

Aside from the added risks associated with COVID-19, we know there are a myriad of health benefits from quitting smoking. People who smoke are generally at higher risk of respiratory tract infections, like lung and chest infections. And, after just a few weeks of stopping smoking, lung health improves and rates of lung infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia also decrease. This is really important as Australia heads into the influenza season.

Smoking is also the leading preventable cause of cancer, accounting for 13% of cancer cases per year. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide with most cases attributed to smoking. In Australia, about 90% of lung cancer cases in males and 65% in females are estimated to be the result of tobacco smoking. Smoking can also cause 15 other cancer types, heart disease, strokes, diabetes and host of other issues that are non-life threatening but severely decrease quality of life, such as macular degeneration and infertility.

So how do you quit?

Quitting smoking can be hard for some, but decades of evidence clearly shows your chances of quitting successfully are higher if you use a combination of a tailored quit counselling service, such as Quitline (call 13 78 48), and stop smoking medications (such as nicotine replacement therapy).

Quitline counsellors provide a free, personalised, non-judgemental and empathetic support to help you quit, including information on the types of smoking medications available. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander counsellors and interpreter services are also available.

We recommend you talk with your GP to get information about the different stop smoking medications available, and advice on which option will be the most suited to you.

You can get more information on quitting by visiting or calling 13 78 48 today.