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Smokefree Sheffield urges smokers to ‘quit for covid’

Smokefree Sheffield urges smokers to ‘quit for covid’: main article image

Smokefree Sheffield urges smokers to ‘quit for covid’

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Sheffield is taking part in a national campaign calling on smokers to #QuitForCovid. The initiative aims to educate smokers on the increased risks to themselves and their family from COVID-19 and encourage them to take the important step of quitting smoking.

The Chief Medical Officer and Health Secretary both recently reinforced that smokers are at increased risk from COVID-19. Smoking harms the immune system, reducing the body’s natural protection against infections, like coronavirus. Smokers are therefore not only at greater risk of getting coronavirus, but the infection is likely to last longer and be more serious than it would for someone who does not smoke.

Now is a very important time for smokers to quit and reduce their harm from tobacco. Not only will quitting smoking reduce a smoker’s risk of serious health consequences from coronavirus, but will also rapidly reduce their risk of other health problems related to smoking, such as heart disease and stroke which is critical for smokers on an individual level and for our health system which is already under strain at this time.

Greg Fell, Director of Public Health in Sheffield said:

We are calling on all smokers to take this opportunity to start their journey today and quit with us, to protect themselves and their loved ones at this crucial time. We have an excellent range of support available for smokers in the city and the Stop Smoking Service is continuing to support smokers over the phone and online. Telephone calls are free from either a landline or mobiles. The service offer is a mix of behavioural support and stop smoking medication such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy and Champix.”

“Smokers are three times more likely to quit successfully with the help of expert support. This is why Sheffield is committed to keeping access to this important service going. We know most smokers want to quit, what I would say to smokers is that this could be the opportunity you have been waiting for.”

Smoking is one of the leading causes of health inequalities in the UK and the coronavirus outbreak risks worsening this divide. Two particular at-risk groups are people with smoking-related illnesses and the homeless. Sheffield is making sure information and support is available to all, but especially the most vulnerable people in our community.

People with existing respiratory conditions like COPD, are already more susceptible to infections like coronavirus. However, smoking, which is a leading cause of COPD, exacerbates this risk even further. This is because COVID-19 affects the respiratory system causing breathing difficulties. It is more important than ever that people living with COPD who still smoke access quit support.

Smoking rates are also disproportionately high amongst the homeless, up to four times the national average. The COVID risk is particularly high for the homeless because their lives open up several routes to being exposed to the virus and risk increasing the spread of infection between other vulnerable adults. These behaviours include sharing cigarettes and smoking discarded cigarette ends. We are strongly advising smokers not to share cigarettes or smoke cigarette ends discarded by others to reduce risk of transmission of the coronavirus.

It is not just smokers themselves though who are at greater risk, exposure to secondhand smoke is also likely to exacerbate the risks from coronavirus, alongside the other harms it causes. Children are at particular risk from the dangers of secondhand smoke, as they have less well-developed airways, lungs and immune systems.

With Sheffield’s schools closed and children isolating at home with their parents, it is more important than ever to maintain a smokefree home. Smoking in the home, even in another room or with the window open, exposes children to the thousands of chemicals in cigarette smoke and increases the risk of serious health conditions and respiratory infections.

Councillor Mary Lea, for Culture, Parks and Leisure said:

“We applaud the efforts of families in Sheffield who are staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We have lots of information and advice on the Smokefree Sheffield website on how to maintain a smokefree home.

We would encourage all smokers who are self-isolating to reach out to our local stop smoking service and take this opportunity to seek support to quit. If smokers do not feel able to quit right now there are other steps you can take and alternatives such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) or e-cigarettes to deal with cravings. By not smoking in the home smokers will protect themselves and their loved ones around them from harm”

Going ‘cold turkey’ has been proven to be the least effective quit method, this is why Sheffield continues to support the use of quit aids like NRT and e-cigarettes.

There has been some suggestion in some media outlets that e-cigarette use could increase risks from COVID-19. There is no clear evidence for this suggestion, and while we know smoking is a definite risk factor for COVID19, we continue to encourage smokers to think about switching to e-cigarettes to reduce their risk of respiratory infections.

Further advice and support about quitting for COVID is available at
www.smokefreesheffield.org/quit-for-covid