Covid-19 might not be feateured in every news bulletin and newspaper as it was throughout 2020 and 2021, but it is still with us, and is as dangerous as ever. UK Government statistics show that in December 2022 more than 157,000 positive Covid-19 tests and more than 2,200 deaths related to Covid-19 were reported(1).
Evidence is still emerging about the link between Covid-19 and smoking, but the potential damage that results far outweighs any benefits. A recent UK study (2) published in 2021 suggests that current smokers who get coronavirus are twice as likely to attend hospital and tend to report more symptoms than non-smokers.
When the Covid-19 outbreak hit in March 2020, we developed a campaign to encourage people to quit smoking to improve their health and reduce their risk from the virus.
As a novel coronavirus, the evidence about the impacts of smoking is still developing. At the peak of the pandemic, based on available evidence, the UK Government advised:
- Smokers generally have an increased risk of contracting respiratory infections and getting more severe symptoms once infected. Covid-19 symptoms may, therefore, be more severe if you smoke.
- Stopping smoking will bring immediate health benefits, including those with an existing smoking-related disease. This is particularly important for both the individual and for our NHS at a time of intense pressure on the health service.
Source: Gov UK (This advice was withdrawn in March 2022)
In March 2020, the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty highlighted the risk to smokers from coronavirus and had clear advice on quitting.
“To be clear on smokers, my recommendation is that they stop smoking; if you’re going to give up smoking, this is a very good moment to do it.”
– Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer
Coinciding with the first national lockdown in March 2020, the Quit for COVID campaign was launched. This combined local and national action over the months that followed to raise awareness of the risks of smoking and encourage quits.
1 million people have stopped smoking since the COVID pandemic hit Britain and a further 440,000 smokers tried to quit during this period.