Smoking and COVID-19

Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable death, killing about 22,000 New Yorkers every year. In New York State, 650,000 adults live with a chronic disease caused by smoking. Lung disease is among the many illnesses and disabilities smoking causes. Smoking causes most cases of lung cancer and COPD, weakens the immune system, and increases the risk for respiratory infections.

Adults of any age who currently smoke or who are former smokers, as well as those living with certain underlying medical conditions that are often caused by smoking, such as cancer and COPD, are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. For more information, visit the CDC "People with Certain Medical Conditions" webpage.

Quitting smoking may reduce your risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19. Using an FDA-approved medication, such as nicotine replacement patches, and treatment and support from your health care provider can improve your ability to quit for good by helping manage cravings and withdrawal from addictive nicotine.

Research is underway to determine if using e-cigarettes or other vaping products increases risk for severe illness from COVID-19. However, there is growing evidence that vaping can damage lung health. Although some smokers may try e-cigarettes to quit smoking, there is no evidence they are effective nor are they an FDA-approved cessation product. In 2019, a national outbreak of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products called EVALI occurred. Laboratory data found that vitamin E acetate, an additive in some THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products, is strongly linked to the outbreak, but there may be other unknown causes. Vaping products are unsafe and untested. New York State strongly discourages the use of e-cigarettes and vaping products for any reason.

The coronavirus pandemic is yet another reason for people who smoke or vape to consider quitting to improve lung health and overall health and well-being. New York State is ready to help. Medicaid and other insurances cover quit counseling provided by your health care provider and quit medicines they prescribe.

For help quitting smoking or vaping:

  • Visit thefree and confidential New York State Smokers' Quitline online or call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487). The Quitline provides information, quit coaching, and, for eligible New Yorkers, free starter kits of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
  • Talk to your doctor. Some offices offer telehealth or other remote visit options.
  • Talk to a local pharmacist for advice, including information about over-the-counter medicine options.
  • For help with quitting vaping, New York State teens and young adults (ages 13-24) can text "DROPTHEVAPE" to 88709 to join This is Quitting, a free texting support program. Parents can text "QUIT" to 202-899-7550 to receive daily advice to help youth quit. Visit truthinitiative.org/thisisquitting to learn more.

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