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Posted on: May 8, 2020

COVID-19 & Smoking Facts

Woman holding cigarette.

COVID-19 and what we can do to minimize risk factors.

The Centers for Disease Control has guidance on preventing risks for Coronavirus or COVID-19 and outlining which populations are most at risk for getting COVID-19: “Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Please consult with your health care provider about additional steps you may be able to take to protect yourself.”

While young adults are at a lower risk, there are health risk factors that can lead to susceptibility to the virus, including smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. Smoking leads to respiratory illnesses: everything from bronchitis to asthma to COPD and lung cancer. Therefore, individuals who smoke tobacco or marijuana, and potentially those who vape electronic smoking devices, reduce their lung function by introducing particulate matter, toxins, and carcinogens into their lungs, which then increases susceptibility for respiratory illnesses. In addition, secondhand smoke exposure is similarly associated with diminished lung function and illnesses, and therefore also a risk factor for susceptibility to viruses like COVID-19. We encourage individuals, particularly those who are considered high risk and susceptible to virus exposure, to do their best to avoid smoke-filled indoor environments.

[See summary of the evidence on the respiratory effects of e-cigarettes and the ways that e-cigarettes impair lungs’ ability to fight off infections]

Given these risk factors, those that choose to smoke are encouraged to consider quitting for good. We know that it is incredibly challenging to quit, particularly during stressful times, and that stress often leads to relapse among former smokers. That’s not by accident, the tobacco industry intentionally made cigarettes more addictive and through their understanding of nicotine’s addictive impact on brain chemistry knew it would be extremely difficult for users, their core customers, to quit. If you want to quit, you are not alone—there are many FREE resources, online and by phone, that can help people who wish to quit.

COVID-19 reminds us that health prevention policies matter greatly.

Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by coronavirus, including front-line healthcare workers, and workers in the hospitality and entertainment industries who may still be required to work and are generally the least likely to have paid sick leave, health care coverage, and are still working in smoke-filled environments. Just as social distancing and handwashing help prevent the spread of disease, eliminating secondhand smoke is critical to prevent acute and chronic diseases, and saves lives by reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, and lung cancer by up to 30% at a population wide level.

Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Just like coronavirus, secondhand smoke spreads throughout a building. Casino, bar, and hotel ventilation systems do not eliminate exposure to the gases, toxins, carcinogens, and particulate matter contained in secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol.

Sadly, more than 100 Americans die every day from secondhand smoke exposure. Casino and hospitality workers are the most exposed to secondhand smoke, but it’s a health hazard for everyone breathing in a building with smoking. Exposure to secondhand smoke is a health risk we can eliminate by closing gaps in smokefree protections for all workplaces, public places, and multi-unit homes. Powerful corporate interests, including tobacco companies, want to enable indoor smoking in venues like bars, music venues, and casinos as a way to maximize smoking profits and keep people addicted to tobacco and other nicotine products. Community Public Health experts and advocates must continue their efforts to prevent rollbacks to smokefree protections or attempts to preempt local authority to enact smokefree and other tobacco-related laws that protect health and prevent another generation addicted to nicotine products.

List of Tobacco risks with COVID-19


View the complete PDF document on COVID-19 and Tobacco Risks Fact Sheet (PDF) on the Mille Lacs County website. 

COVID-19 & Tobacco Risks Fact Sheet (PDF)
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