In these uncertain times we are all weeding through the influx of COVID-19 information, expert and non-expert opinions, scare tactics, nay-sayers, and memes.  Multiple studies now demonstrate that smokers are at a higher risk of developing more severe respiratory infection and death from the corona virus.

This virus is not an equal opportunity killer.  It targets the elderly, the obese and those with pre-existing heart, lung and immune disease … and sometimes, inexplicably, it destroys younger individuals.  Inhaled nicotine through vaping or traditional cigarettes weakens the protective lining of the lung and paralyzes the tiny hair cells (cilia) that sweep the lung clear of debris, bacteria and viri. Smokers and vapers already have widespread lung inflammation and sometimes micro-scarring that exacerbates the pneumonia firestorm caused by the virus.

Of course, it’s nicotine addiction that drives both cigarette and e-cigarette sales.  Users often rationalize that cancer, lung or heart damage is years or decades away.  But, with this virus in wide circulation, is that belief valid?  Could lungs injured by vaping or smoking be the deciding factor between an uncomfortable illness and a ride to the ventilator or the undertaker? Is this critical moment the time to quit?

In my three decades of clinical practice, I’ve found that the indispensable key to successful quitting is a large dose of one essential vitamin: vitamin M – motivation. There could hardly be a more motivating circumstance than now.  Many of the other COVID-19 risk factors can’t be easily fixed, but quitting smoking and vaping improves lung function within weeks.

Why quit, I’ve been smoking for years? Quitting won’t fix the damage done.”  

Not true:

The benefits of quitting NOW:

  • Cilia in the lungs will regain normal function as soon as one month after quitting
  • Cough, sputum production and shortness of breath often diminish within weeks
  • Circulation improves and lung function increases within two weeks of quitting
  • Heart attack risk decreases significantly within a month
  • Over time, lung cancer risk cut in half

This respiratory disease pandemic is happening amidst a vaping and smoking epidemic.  In fact, even under the current worst-case pandemic models, three times more Americans will die this year from tobacco related disease than will die from COVID-19.  Maybe it’s time to draw a line in the sand – and keep illness and death from both diseases on the other side.

— Rob Crane, MD, Professor-Clinical, Department of Family Medicine, Ohio State University

Now is the time to stop smoking and vaping – for yourself, your family, and for public health. 

Give your lungs a fighting chance.


May 14, 2020