by Jessica Hulsey
We know from health officials that smokers and those who vape nicotine or marijuana may be more vulnerable than others to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and to developing more severe symptoms. Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains: "Vaping, like smoking, may also harm lung health. Whether it can lead to COPD is still unknown, but emerging evidence suggests that exposure to aerosols from e-cigarettes harms the cells of the lung and diminishes the ability to respond to infection." Dr. Mark Gold in a recent Research You Can Use summarizes the latest research on vaping: "Combined use of e-cigarette and tobacco products dramatically increased lung disease risks by an incredible 330 percent."
New research from the University of British Columbia scientists suggest that giving up smoking could lessen the chance that an infection from coronavirus will lead to severe COVID-19 disease. Their studies found that the lung cells of people who are current smokers and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) patients have increased levels of ACE-2 -- the angiotensin converting enzyme II -- a receptor that the coronavirus uses to gain entry into host cells and cause infection. A similar study was recently published by Chinese scientists at Weifang Medical University.
There is a common thread among these research reports and advisories from health officials: quitting smoking and vaping is advised to reduce your risk of COVID-19.
And as we all adjust to stay-at-home orders and quarantine, many suggest it's a good time to quit. When Addiction Policy Forum counselors talk to people about starting the process, we often talk about the reason or motivation and reducing your risk for COVID-19 is a powerful one. Resources and support exist and you don't need to be alone during the process. With nicotine replacement, prescription medication, and even technology to help, there are many supports in place to help.
Discussions with experts and physicians helped to identify these five tips to help you quit:
5 Tips to Help You Quit Vaping
Make a plan to quit. Include your reason for quitting and write it down. Post it someplace as your reminder and even journal daily to keep you reason and motivation in the forefront.
Revisit your coping skills and techniques to manage stress. Do you workout when stressed? Use a mindfulness app? Talk to a friend? Talk to a counselor? Rethinking the ways you manage your stress is key.
Use digital tools. There are a number of smartphone apps and online communities to help you quit.
Try nicotine replacements. There are a number of options including nicotine gum, patches, or other alternatives to vaping can help ease symptoms.
Talk to your doctor about a prescription aid. FDA-approved medications like bupropion and varenicline can help you quit smoking if you feel like you need additional help.
For Parents and Teachers
For parents and teachers, this is also a good time to sit down and talk with adolescents about vaping. Addiction Policy Forum's a toolkit on vaping that includes online courses, sample classroom activities that work for online school, and an explainer video you can watch as a family.
The current pandemic can be the time to assess our health, our risks and our lifestyle. For many it's an ideal time to start a treatment and recovery plan from nicotine use disorder or other substance use disorders, or a time to have the conversation with a friend or family member you're worried about. If you need more support to start making a change today, call Addiction Policy Forum helpline at 833-301-HELP.
Other Helpful Resources to Quit
• Tobacco Cessation Resources for Youth (American Cancer Society)
• Smokefree Teen (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
• My Life My Quit: text “Start My Quit” to 855-891-9989
• Learn more about treatment options for tobacco cessation, including both behavioral therapies and FDA-approved medications.
Addiction Policy Forum's founder, Jessica Hulsey, began work in the addiction field in 1992. The impact of addiction in her own family was the impetus for her focus on substance use disorders - first in a community coalition in southern California, followed by an appointment by President Bill Clinton to serve on the Drug-Free Communities Commission, and serving as a legislative aid in the U.S. House of Representatives on drug policy issues. She founded Addiction Policy Forum in 2015, the Addiction Policy Forum to end stigma, help patients and families in crisis and translate the science around addiction.