Does Smoking and Vaping Make COVID-19 Worse?

Here’s what you need to know

We have heard a lot of questions from people concerned about the health risks of Coronavirus (COVID-19) if they smoke or vape. The intent of this information sharing is to help people make informed choices about quitting or reducing, as well as staying safe while smoking/vaping:

What we know about smoking/commercial tobacco exposure and COVID-19:*

  • People who smoke are more likely to need mechanical ventilation than non-smokers.
  • Continuous hand-to-mouth contact through smoking can increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  • Sharing cigarettes can also increase the risk of spreading the virus through saliva/droplets.
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke can affect lung function and cardiovascular health. Second-hand smoke can also increase the health risks for people who have COVID-19.

What we know about e-cigarette/vaping exposure and COVID-19:*

  • Vape use, with or without nicotine, has been proven to make people susceptible to respiratory viral infections.[1]
  • Continuous hand-to-mouth contact through vaping can increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  • Sharing cigarettes can also increase the risk of spreading the virus through saliva/droplets.
  • There is not enough evidence to confirm that COVID-19 can be spread through exhaled vapor from e-cigarettes. Social (physical) distancing may prevent the risk of droplet transmission through vaping.

How to support people to quit smoking/vaping during COVID-19:

  • Without support, only 3-5 percent of people who attempt to quit smoking are successful.
  • Advice from health care professionals can increase the success rate up to 30 percent.[2]
  • We encourage you to talk to a health care professional about resources that are available to support your decision to quit!

Some people may be motivated to quit during this time. Following are some online/telephone counselling supports:

  • On Thursday, May 21st, Manitoba Tobacco Reduction Alliance (MANTRA) will host Live Cessation Counselling on The Quit Crowd Facebook page.
  • MANTRA provides online support with a weekly broadcast every Thursday at 3:30 PM CST on The Quit Crowd Facebook page.
  • Smokers' Helpline offers online support 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. In Manitoba, telephone support is also available: 1-877-513-5333.
  • Manitoba Quits (MB Lung Association) Peer Support Facebook Group
  • Health Canada’s Break it Off for youth and young adults
  • Talk to your Primary Care Provider or Pharmacist, who can advise on medication and methods that may be useful at this time.

For clients who are not ready to quit, but would like advice on staying safe:

  • Wash your hands before and after handling cigarettes, packaging, lighters or vaping devices.
  • If using hand sanitizer, ensure your hands are dry before you light up. The alcohol in hand sanitizers is flammable.
  • Avoid sharing cigarettes or vapes.
  • Consider reducing your frequency of use to limit hand-to-mouth contact.
  • Avoid exposing others to second-hand smoke or vapour. Respect others’ right to clean air.

We understand that people smoke for their own reasons and decide to quit for their own reasons. We get it. Think about what is most important to you. Every time you try to quit smoking is one step closer to becoming a non-smoker. You’re not alone, 16.3% or 165,000 people in Manitoba smoke cigarettes and 70% want to quit smoking. With the proper supports, everyone can succeed at quitting smoking! 

*Adapted from Centre for Addiction and Mental Health TEACH Educational Rounds “Supporting People who Smoke or Vape During the COVID-19 Pandemic” (April 2020).
[1] Wu, Q., Jiang, D., Minor, M., & Chu, H. W. (2014). Electronic cigarette liquid increases inflammation and virus infection in primary human airway epithelial cells. PloS one, 9(9), e108342.
[2] Canadian Cancer Society (2020). Healthcare and Other Partners. Retrieved April 7, 2020 from https://www.smokershelpline.ca/healthcare/home.