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Smoking and Vaping: COVID Makes it an Especially Good Time to Quit

By Monica Bender, RN, BS, CCM, Vice President of Care Management at HealthComp

It’s February. New Year’s resolutions may have come and gone. But if your plan members are among the 34.1 million adults in the United States who smoke, no matter what time of year it is it’s always a good time to consider quitting.

In today’s COVID times, smokers may feel especially compelled to kick the habit, as they have an increased risk of contracting this virus and developing severe symptoms. Consider these risks:

  • The mere mechanism of smoking, in which people frequently touch their hands to their mouths, can enable germs like COVID-19 to enter the body. Smoking also hampers the immune response, which would otherwise help the body fight off an infection.
  • Smoking affects lung tissue and puts an individual at increased risk for pulmonary conditions, such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – and COVID-19.
  • WebMD said in one study people who had COVID-19 and were hospitalized with pneumonia found the odds the disease would get worse were 14 times higher for those with a history of smoking.

Vaping Risks

It’s not just smoking. Vaping also puts individuals at greater risk for serious COVID infections. The American Lung Association (ALA) has discussed the dangers of vaping, including an ailment known as popcorn lung. This condition is marked by scarred tissue. It’s prevalent among people who use flavored e-cigarettes, which contain a toxic chemical called diacetyl. Because the lung cells have been damaged, it makes it difficult for them to fight off infection.

It’s important to note that while smoking has decreased over the years, vaping is on the rise, especially among young people.

Support for Quitters

As a nurse, I’ve dealt with the effects of smoking on disease processes for over 20 years, and we’re just beginning to see how COVID-19 will affect the lungs of smokers and vapers. For this and many other reasons, I continue to be an advocate for smoking cessation through education, legislation, and empowering individuals – especially youth – to take a stand against smoking.

Within a given year, more than half of adult smokers may attempt to quit. In 2018, only around 7 out of every 100 people who tried actually succeeded.

Companies that have smoking cessation programs can help their smoking and vaping populations by keeping their cessations programs front and center throughout the year – not just around the New Year or Thanksgiving, when many attempt to quit “cold turkey.”

Quitting is difficult, but a well-structured cessation program can provide the support and motivation members need to successfully kick the habit for good.

HealthComp offers just this type of regimen. Our program is built around sound principles, proven to help millions of others succeed. For example, the program recognizes that certain medications – such as nicotine gum and Chantix – can double or triple the success rate.

The program will help participants identify triggers that often lead them to smoke or vape, such as stress or being around others who engage in the habit. More importantly, the program helps individuals identify heart-felt reasons to give it up, as well as how to build a support system to make it happen. For example, someone might want to quit in order to be healthier so they can spend more time with their grandchildren – this type of individual might have greater motivation to go the distance.

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