Smokers are being urged to quit during the coronavirus lockdown by Public Health England and GPs, who are stating it increases the risks from COVID-19.

Regular smokers who contract coronavirus are more likely to experience serious symptoms, including deterioration of lung function, compared to non-smokers.

“Smokers with Covid-19 in Wuhan were 14 times more likely to develop serious disease.”

A new campaign, QuitForCovid, has been launched by Charlie Kenward, a Bristol-based GP. It is supported by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. 

Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH, said: “For smokers, quitting or temporarily stopping during this outbreak is one of the best things they could do right now.”

Smokers with COVID-19 in Wuhan, where the outbreak began, were 14 times more likely to develop serious illnesses compared to non-smokers, according to a study published in Chinese Medical Journal.

Quitting smoking also reduces the risk of other health problems such as heart attack and stroke; preventing these problems is crucial when the health system is under pressure due to the pandemic.

Data from Public Health England has revealed a nine per cent rise of hospital admissions attributable to smoking in Cornwall whilst the number of successful quitters has declined.

Additionally, smokers are urged to protect others from their smoke as secondhand smoke also increases the risks of coronavirus. ASH advises self-isolating smokers who are unable to go outside to use alternatives, such as e-cigarettes or Nicotine Replacement Therapy.

A Twitter clinic has been established as face-to-face support sessions are unavailable. Smokers can tweet their questions or share success stories under the hashtag #QuitforCovid. All questions are answered during online quit ‘clinics’ every day from 7:30-8:30pm.

Maggie Milne from Sheffield Stop Smoking Service is one of the experts behind the Twitter clinic. She recommends using medication to replace nicotine, taking deep breaths and keeping yourself busy as ways to make quitting easier. 

She added: “If quitting seems too difficult at the moment then I would recommend swapping to an e-cigarette as this will enable the routine without the harm as vaping is much safer than smoking tobacco.” 

In Cornwall, smokers can also contact Healthy Cornwall to get support for quitting either by calling 01209 615600 or registering online.

“For smokers, quitting or temporarily stopping during this outbreak is one of the best things they could do right now.”

In 2018, smoking killed almost 100,000 people across the UK.

It also has a major impact on wages and productivity, according to a report published by ASH in March.

Current smokers are 11% less likely to be employed than non-smokers, while non-smokers earn 25% more. Overall, the average cost of smoking to each employed smoker is more than £3,000 per year. 

The government has set a target for England to become smoke-free by 2030 as smoking costs the economy £74.4bn a year due to reduced earnings and increased economic inactivity of regular smokers.