SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Quitting smoking has never been more important. COVID-19 is a lung and airways disease that is caused by a new virus.
- People who smoke have a higher risk of severe illness if they get COVID-19.
- Stopping smoking reduces the risk of getting other lungs diseases, such as pneumonia.
It’s not clear how long a person needs to stop smoking to reduce their risk from infections, however the lungs start to recover quickly after stopping smoking.
Are people who smoke or vape at higher risk of getting COVID-19?
People who smoke are not at higher risk of getting COVID-19.
It’s not yet known whether vaping (using e-cigarettes) affects the risk of getting COVID-19.
Smoking increases the risk of catching other lung diseases such as pneumonia and influenza.
Are people who smoke or vape more likely to have a worse illness if they get COVID-19?
People who smoke have an increased risk of severe illness if they get COVID-19. They could have a worse cough or fever, or be more likely to need to go to hospital.
It is not known whether vaping (using e-cigarettes) increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Researchers don’t yet know how smoking is making COVID-19 disease worse. But they do know that:
- Smoking causes damage and inflammation in the lungs, so that they don’t work as well.
- Lungs naturally produce mucus. But people who smoke have more and thicker mucus that is hard to clean out of the lungs.
- Smoking and vaping affect the immune system, which may make it harder to fight infections.
What to do if you smoke or vape
The best thing you can do is quit. Your GP, Quitline counsellors and nicotine replacement therapy or prescribed stop-smoking tablets can help you quit.
However, if you do smoke:
- Don’t share cigarettes or roll a cigarette for someone else.
- Don’t share vaping devices.
- Don’t share cigars, pipes or waterpipes.
- Don’t smoke or vape in groups where social distancing is not possible.
- Pay extra attention to – wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, cough into your elbow, try to avoid touching your face, and maintain physical distance from others.
Am I more at risk of COVID-19 if I used to smoke or vape?
People who used to smoke are at higher risk of severe illness if they get COVID-19.
It’s not known whether people who used to vape are at higher risk of COVID-19 disease.
Starting and using stop-smoking medications
For people who smoke, prescribed stop-smoking tablets or nicotine replacement therapy (like patches, gum, lozenge or spray) can help to reduce cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms. When combined with tailored support from Quitline, these medications give people the best chance of successfully quitting.
There is no evidence that COVID-19 affects the safety and effectiveness of these medications. If you are already using these medications, it is safe to continue to do so, as instructed by your doctor.
Difference between nicotine withdrawal and COVID-19 symptoms
People who have recently stopped smoking may experience nicotine withdrawal symptoms, including cravings, irritability and difficulty concentrating. These symptoms are usually temporary and disappear after about 2 to 4 weeks.
Less common symptoms of nicotine withdrawal might include a cough and sore throat, which are usually temporary.
Finding support to stop smoking and vaping
Your doctor or pharmacist can talk to you about which stop-smoking medications would suit you best. These include prescribed stop-smoking tablets or nicotine replacement therapy (such as patches and gum, lozenge or mouth-spray). Some of these medications are cheaper with a script from your doctor, including stop-smoking tablets, and nicotine patches, lozenges or gum. You can use a nicotine patch along with gum, lozenge or spray.
The Quitline is a free telephone support service that works with you to help you stop smoking or vaping. Your Quitline counsellor cares about your story and does not judge. They are trained to listen carefully and give support suited to your needs. They can help you before and after you stop smoking or vaping. They can also talk to you about the different types of stop-smoking medications. Your call is private and confidential.
Quitline is an inclusive and culturally safe space for all, including the LGBTIQA+ community. An interpreter service is available for people who speak a language other than English.
There is also an Aboriginal Quitline for people who smoke and identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Simply call and ask to speak with one of their qualified Aboriginal Quitline counsellors.
has information, tips and tools to help you wherever you are at with your smoking or vaping. They can help you work on your habits and triggers for smoking or vaping, as well as your addiction to nicotine.
Where to get help
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- The health benefits of smoking cessation: a report of the Surgeon General, 1990, Centers for Disease Control, Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, US Department of Health and Human Services.
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- , 2020, Office on Smoking and Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- , 2020, World Health Organisation.
- , 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners 2019, , East Melbourne, Victoria.