Find us on:
  • Home
  • About Us
  • The Problem
  • What We Do
  • In The News
  • For Professionals
  • Contact
A+ A A-

Smokers encouraged to quit for coronavirus

With the coronavirus outbreak now declared a global pandemic, smokers are being urged to quit to reduce the risks from COVID-19. 


Coronavirus (COVID-19) is an acute respiratory infection. Respiratory infections are serious infections that affect normal breathing. A wide range of bacteria and viruses cause these infections.


 Smoking affects the immune system in the airways, lung tissue and throughout the body. This reduces your natural protection against infections, like coronavirus.


This means that if you smoke:

  • you have an increased risk of getting acute respiratory infections
  • you have a greater risk of the infection lasting longer
  • you have a greater risk of the infection being more serious than it would be for someone who does not smoke


Second-hand smoke has similar effects. Children who are exposed to smoke are at increased risk of acute respiratory infections.


People who smoke are at an increased risk of viral pneumonia - one of the complications from COVID-19. But a worry among doctors and health groups is that people who are feeling worried and stressed may be putting off thinking about quitting.


Dr Ruth Sharrock, a respiratory consultant at Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Dr Nick Hopkinson, Respiratory Specialist at Imperial College London and Chair of Action on Smoking Health (ASH), Ailsa Rutter, Director of Fresh, Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of ASH have separately urged smokers to quit.


It follows advice from Professor Chris Witty, England's Chief Medical Officer (1) and the Health Service Executive in Ireland (2) around additional risks to people who smoke tobacco.


Dr Ruth Sharrock, a respiratory consultant at Gateshead NHS Foundation Trust's Queen Elizabeth hospital, said: "We are facing challenging times both as healthcare staff and in the general population and all of us need to protect our lung health to cope with this. The single most important thing a smoker could do would be to stop smoking– not just for this virus but for all respiratory tract infections.



"We know that smoking damages your body's first line of defence against respiratory tract infections, and smokers are more at risk from pneumonia.  But we also know people with underlying health conditions are much more at risk of serious complications – and that includes smoking-related diseases.


"You are never too late to see important benefits from quitting and this is an important time to stop smoking."


Dr Nick Hopkinson said: "Quitting smoking is definitely an important way for individuals to reduce their risk from COVID-19.  Smoking increases the risk of lung infections - smokers are twice as likely to get pneumonia and five times more likely to get influenza." (3)



"For COVID-19 specifically, data from China shows that smokers with the infection seem to be at a greater risk of getting severe complications.  One worry we have is that people can sometimes be put off quitting smoking if they feel worried and anxious. But now is a really important moment to stop.


He added: "The other key point is that quitting smoking rapidly reduces that individual's risk of other health problems such as heart attacks and strokes – those are bad whenever they happen, so preventing them is an end in itself, but it's especially important at a time like now when the NHS is going to coming under strain."


Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "I would really urge anyone smoking to give quitting a go now. It is never ever too late and you're never too old. If you've tried before and didn't manage don't give up on quitting.


"It can often take a few times before you'll succeed and your body, including your lungs, will benefit immediately once you stop smoking tobacco. Stopping smoking will also protect loved ones around you from breathing in secondhand smoke. There is more help and more ways to quit than ever before – quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health."


Deborah Arnott Chief Executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) said: "This is a worrying time for all of us and people are looking for what they can do to protect themselves and protect others. For smokers, quitting or temporarily stopping during this outbreak is one of the best things they could do right now."


Many stop smoking services are looking at how they can support people remotely and I urge people to also use other sources of nicotine such as NRT to help them with the cravings."


For more information on COVID-19 visit or


For support, advice and free tools to quit smoking visit