Call for smokers to quit to reduce COVID-19 risks

Public health officials in Liverpool are advising smokers to quit to reduce the risks of severe symptoms if they get COVID-19.

They are joining calls from the Chief Medical Officer and Public Health England with the message: there has never been a more important time for local smokers to quit, to protect themselves and others.

Smoking tobacco damages the lungs, weakens the immune system and causes a range of severe respiratory problems.

In Liverpool, despite a large drop in the number of smokers over the last decade, 14.7 per cent of the population still use cigarettes (58,605 people), compared with 14.4 per cent nationally.

The Kings College COVID-19 Symptom Tracker Study has analysed data from 1.5m people across the UK which has indicated that smoking significantly increases the risk of self-diagnosed risk symptoms – a fever and persistent cough – by about 26 per cent. Evidence also so far suggests people who smoke may be at increased risk of severe disease if they get COVID-19.

If you live in Liverpool, the Smokefree Liverpool Service is available offering telephone support free of charge to give people who want to quit virtual support and make their attempt successful.

Contact with the service can still be made through the local service number, 0151 374 2535, via the Freephone contact number 0800 061 4212, or you can text Quit to 66777.

The service is available to anyone wishing to quit who has not used the service in the previous three months.

Over the last year, they have helped 2,533 people to quit their habit.

You can find more information about the service at www.smokefreeliverpool.co.uk.

Smokers can also access stop smoking support via social media:

Facebook: @smokefreeliverpool

Twitter: @SFree_Liverpool

Instagram: smokefreeliverpool

Benefits of quitting smoking:

· After 8 hours carbon monoxide levels in blood reduce by more than half and oxygen levels return to normal.

· After 48 hours carbon monoxide is eliminated from the body. Lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris

· After 72 hours breathing becomes easier as bronchial tubes begin to relax

· After 2 to 12 weeks lung function and blood circulation starts to improve, making physical activity like walking and running easier

· After 3 to 9 months any coughs, wheezing or breathing problems will be improving as your lung function increases

Councillor Paul Brant, Cabinet member for public health, said: “This is a worrying time for all of us and we are all conscious of the need to protect ourselves, to protect others.

“Quitting smoking is a very good way to reduce the chances you’ll need to go to hospital. It is never too late to see health benefits of quitting and you’re never too old to quit.

Matthew Ashton, Liverpool’s Director of Public Health added: “There are so many reasons to quit smoking but never a more important time than right now during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As well as reducing the risks from complications from coronavirus, quitting smoking quickly improves your circulation and your breathing.

“It also reduces the risks of other health problems such as heart attacks and strokes. In the longer term quitting is also linked to reduced depression, anxiety, and stress and improved positive mood and quality of life compared with continuing to smoke.”

Paul Roberto, Service Manager of Smokefree Liverpool commented: “We are getting calls every day now from smokers who are determined that they want to quit at this point in time. Even if you’ve tried before and didn’t manage don’t give up on quitting because you can do it.

“Many smokers try several times before they succeed, but getting the right support and using Nicotine Replacement Therapy to help ease the cravings gives you a much better chance of success.”