If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.

What You Need to Know About Smoking & COVID-19

Quitting cigarette smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health, and right now, it’s more important than ever. The COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic may have cigarette smokers more worried about their health. To stay safe during these uncertain times, use the following information to learn how COVID-19 can affect current and former smokers.

What is COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 is a new illness that spread to the U.S. in January 2020 and may cause serious harm to the lungs. Not everyone with COVID-19 will have symptoms. However, if a person has symptoms, the common ones may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Symptoms range from mild (like a cough or runny nose) to severe illness which may include trouble breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or not being able to stay awake. For some people, serious illness may cause hospitalization or even death. Keep in mind that COVID-19 symptoms can appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

If you have any of these symptoms or have come into close contact with someone experiencing these symptoms, stay home and call the Military Health System Nurse Advice Line. Talk with a registered nurse who will assess your symptoms and help coordinate the next level of care, such as a virtual appointment with your health care provider, if needed.

How does COVID-19 affect current and former cigarette smokers?

As a result of smoking cigarettes, smokers have more of a certain type of gene and receptor in their lungs than nonsmokers. This gene and receptor is where the virus that causes COVID-19 attaches, so having more of them could increase the chances of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Current and former smokers also have a greater risk of developing respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Having these respiratory illnesses can put someone at greater risk for COVID-19 symptoms.

Finally, the act of smoking may increase risk of spreading COVID-19 due to the hand to mouth motion of smoking.

The bottom line is current and former cigarette smokers are at increased risk of experiencing severe illness from COVID-19 compared to those who have never smoked before.

What about other forms of tobacco (like smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes and hookahs)?

Although there’s limited research and evidence on the risks related to these products and COVID-19, there are still many known health risks for these tobacco products. The risk of spreading COVID-19 increases when you share a hookah mouthpiece or pass around an e-cig.

How can I protect myself?

If you’re a current smoker, quitting tobacco is a great way to reduce your risk of potentially having severe symptoms if you get COVID-19. If you’re a former smoker, staying quit is key. Check out this Tobacco Cessation Resources Guide [PDF 466KB] to find websites, mobile apps and other tools to increase your motivation to quit.

Now is the time to take care of your health by living tobacco free.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact the Military Crisis Line at 988 and press 1, or Text 838255. You can also call 911.