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Welsh smokers quitting over Covid-19 fears

Public Health Wales has reported a sharp rise in smokers quitting amidst fears over Covid-19.

Compared to recent weeks last week saw a 51% increase in referrals to NHS Wales’ Help Me Quit service following warnings that smokers face an increased risk of suffering severe complications from Covid-19.

According to health experts, smokers are more at risk from the virus because they have weakened lung defences as a result of smoking which damages the cells protecting their nose, upper and lower airways. If they quit now however, they can improve their ability to fight the infection.

A study carried out in China found that smokers with Covid-19 are 14 times more likely to develop severe disease. The World Health Organisation has also warned that they are more likely to catch the virus because of the hand-to-mouth action of smoking.

Christian Heathcote-Elliott Principal Public Health Practitioner at Public Health Wales, said:

“We are really pleased that more smokers are choosing the best way to quit with free NHS Help Me Quit support. With smokers being more vulnerable to Covid-19 now has never been a better time to stop smoking.

”Help Me Quit support can be accessed quickly and our friendly telephone support service advisors will be with you every step of your smokefree journey. We urge all smokers in Wales who want to quit to contact 0800 085 2219 or search Help Me Quit today.”

Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales said:

“We already know that 45% of smokers in Wales tried to quit last year and that 68% of would like to give up. Now, as awareness spreads of the risks from Covid-19, many have realised that quitting is a matter of life or death.

“Help Me Quit are responding to the dramatic rise in demand by ramping up telephone support and ensuring all smokers are given the support they need to quit this deadly habit.”

Currently in Wales 17% of adults smoke with prevalence highest in the most deprived areas of the country at 20% compared to 14% in the least deprived. Among young people 9% of 15 to 16-year-olds smoke. Last year 45% of smokers in Wales tried to quit.

Smokers have been urged to quit to boost their ability to fight the Covid-19 infection, with the health benefits of giving up smoking kicking in within hours of them stubbing out their last cigarette.

The immediate benefits of quitting smoking are:
– After 48 hours carbon monoxide is eliminated from the body and the lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris
– After 72 hours breathing becomes easier as the bronchial tubes begin to relax
– After 2 to 12 weeks blood circulation improves, making physical activity like walking and running easier.