The University of Kentucky Public Relations & Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Audrey Darville, a tobacco treatment specialist at the University of Kentucky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 10, 2020) ­ We now know more about the risks of smoking and COVID-19, though studies are still ongoing. Early reports found people sickened with the Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) infection had more severe illness if they smoked.

A recent review of five published studies supports this finding: Persons who smoke have double the risk of severe infection compared to those who do not smoke.

We know that smoking and vaping:

  • Cause damage to our lung’s natural defenses against invasive bacteria and viruses.
  • Expose users to chemicals that weaken the immune system and limit the body’s ability to fight off infection.
  • Increase the risk of heart and lung disease, conditions which also increase the risk of severe COVID-19 illness.

The actions of putting hand to mouth in smoking and vaping can increase the risk of exposure to bacteria and viruses. Smoking one pack a day results in around 300 hand-mouth contacts. Smoking and vaping also decrease mask-wearing time, limiting protection from virus exposure.

Support and medications, such as nicotine replacement products, can make the process of quitting tobacco products easier and success more likely as only four to five out of 100 people who try to quit on their own succeed. Talk to your healthcare provider, call the Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUITNOW) or visit for help.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.

Source: University of Kentucky

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