Quitting smoking is more important than ever – here is how to get started now
Last updated: Aug. 13, 2020
Quitting tobacco use has always been one of the best things a smoker can do to protect their health and it is especially critical now.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named smoking as a risk factor for developing severe illness from COVID-19 because it compromises the immune system. Similarly, the Food and Drug Administration has stated that "people who smoke cigarettes may be at increased risk of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, and may have worse outcomes from COVID-19.” A new study from the University of California San Francisco finds that smokers with COVID-19 had nearly twice the odds of progressing to severe or critical condition or death compared to those who have never smoked. Nearly 30% of patients with a history of smoking – a total of 218 patients – progressed to serious outcomes compared with 17.6% of non-smoking patients, out of an analysis of nearly 12,000 COVID-19 patients.
It’s no surprise that smokers are at greater risk – the virus behind this pandemic attacks the lungs and research shows smoking increases the risk of lung infections, among many other health complications. Additionally, those who have ever used e-cigarettes are 5X more likely to contract COVID-19 than those who do not use tobacco products, according to a recent study. Dual users of cigarettes and e-cigarettes are nearly 7X more likely to contract the respiratory disease.
Connect with support
Find support for quitting smoking
Quitting smoking is not something people should do on their own, especially now. That’s why the cold turkey method of quitting – stopping abruptly with no support – has such a low success rate.
Seeking support during this time is especially critical. Online communities like the one on BecomeAnEX are available 24/7 to share experiences, answer questions, swap tips and just be there for each other. You can connect as much or as little as you need at any time.
Set a quit date and identify triggers
Set a date to quit smoking
Intentionally setting a quit date is key. Big changes in life benefit from good planning and being thoughtful about when you will begin your quit sets you up to follow a plan.
An important part of that plan is figuring out what makes you want a cigarette. These are your “triggers,” or things that cue you to smoke. Some common triggers are having a cup of coffee, driving and drinking. Use the tools on BecomeAnEX.org to identify your triggers by logging the situation surrounding each cigarette you smoke leading up to your quit date.
Reframe your thinking about smoking and stress
Smoking and stress
If stress is a trigger for you to smoke, you may be thinking that now – a time of heightened stress and anxiety from the pandemic – is not an ideal time to quit smoking. But consider this: studies show that people who experience anxiety, depression or stress usually feel better after quitting smoking.
Smokers who are trying to quit might feel irritable or restless, have trouble sleeping or concentrating, or feel anxious, depressed or hungry. In most cases, these are symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, and not mental health conditions getting worse. These feelings usually go away in a few days.
Forgive your slips and celebrate your successes
It's okay to slip up while quitting smoking
Tobacco addiction can be tough to break, which means that quitting often takes more than one try. If you smoked after your quit day, pick yourself back up. Ask yourself why you slipped up and make a plan for getting past it next time. Drop by the EX Community for support, commiseration, wisdom or encouragement.
And know that even making it through your first 24 hours smoke-free is a big accomplishment. Experts say that recognizing and celebrating successes when you’re quitting can boost resistance to stress and cravings. Members of the EX Community know what a big deal it is to hit those milestones, and they’ll celebrate with you.
Consider using approved medications to make quitting more comfortable
Medication to help quit smoking
Consider talking with your doctor, health care provider or pharmacist about quit smoking aids, such as gum, the patch, inhaler or a prescription medication. These aids can make dealing with quitting cravings and withdrawal easier. Even if you’ve tried medication before, consider trying a different one this time around.
Learn more about BecomeAnEX and our other quitting programs at https://truthinitiative.org/what-we-do/quit-smoking-tools. BecomeAnEX is also the foundation for the EX Program, our enterprise quit program for employers and health plans to help their employees, members and their families.