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Iowans Taking Steps to Quit Smoking, Vaping Amid COVID-19 Spread

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Doctors have long warned of the damage smoking, and most recently vaping, can do to healthy lungs. Now, there’s growing concern that smokers and e-cigarette users face even greater risk from the coronavirus. 

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Division of Tobacco Use, Prevention, and Control, anytime is a great time to quit smoking or vaping, but right now there’s a renewed interest in preserving lung health because of the link between smoking and COVID-19.

“What we do know is that in general people who smoke are at higher risk of getting lung infections, and then, therefore, having more serious illnesses. We know that the chemicals in cigarette smoke cause inflammation to the lung tissue and can change the lung cells, which allows the lung illnesses to hold more easily. We also know that smoking may increase the severity of a lung infection,” Tabetha Gerdner, a community health consultant for IDPH’s tobacco division said. “Smoking reduces immunity and interferes with the body’s ability to recover from lung illnesses and smoking can compromise the immune system, so that makes people at higher risk for severe illnesses from COVID-19.”

March data from Quitline Iowa, a cessation program, shows that over 1,500 people reached out via phone or through their website for information on quitting. IDPH said that number is staying consistent with 2020 January and February numbers, which is when numbers are inflated due to new year’s resolutions.

During these trying times, tobacco is a coping mechanism for many, but the tobacco division said they are here to help.

“There’s been a lot of uncertainty, isolation, and anxiety that comes along with COVID-19, and you know, people deal with that in different ways, especially smokers and vapors. But we also know that smoking and vaping actually puts stress on the body. We know that nicotine is a stimulant. It makes the heart work harder and most vape devices that are popular with teens have very high doses of nicotine, which can also lead to more anxiety, irritability, mood swings. There’s a lot of different ways that you can cope with anxiety and stress, other than smoking and vaping,” Gerdner said.

For more information on COVID-19 and tobacco click here. If you would like to get more information or take the first steps in quitting call 1-800-Quit-Now or visit quitlineiowa.org. There’s also a cessation program just for teens called My Life My Quit.

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