Why over 50s should quit smoking to reduce the most severe symptoms of Covid-19

Dr Ruth Sharrock who has urged people to use the pandemic as a chance to quit smoking.Dr Ruth Sharrock who has urged people to use the pandemic as a chance to quit smoking.
Dr Ruth Sharrock who has urged people to use the pandemic as a chance to quit smoking.
The North East’s over 50s were today urged to pack in smoking now after new figures highlighted major age differences in quitting.

Dr Ruth Sharrock reacted to new figures which show smokers under 30 are more than twice as likely to have stopped smoking because of COVID-19 than those over 50.

This is despite older smokers being more likely to have health conditions which place them at risk from COVID-19, such as COPD and diabetes.

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Two groups – the Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and University College London (UCL) – analysed 1370 smokers and recent ex-smokers as part of the YouGov COVID-19 Tracker.

They found that five percent said they had quit smoking in response to COVID-19.

But among smokers aged under 30, seven percent said they had quit because of COVID-19 while only three percent of smokers over 50 had quit due to COVID-19 .

Dr Ruth Sharrock is the face of the Don’t Wait campaign from Fresh, which is the UK’s first dedicated regional programme for tobacco control.

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The campaign is a reminder of the many reasons to quit smoking such as lung damage, weakened immune systems, cancer, heart attack, diabetes and stroke.

It means if people do get the coronavirus, symptoms could be more severe.

The campaign – across the North East and North Cumbria - is being launched by Fresh with the North East and North Cumbria NHS Integrated Care System Prevention Board.

Dr Sharrock added: “I think one issue is that some older smokers assume the damage has been done and it is too late for them. However - it is never too late to see the benefits that come from quitting smoking.

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“I see some incredible success stories from patients who have been able to stop, despite considerable health issues already - they get a new lease of life and all wish they had done it sooner. You should never give up on yourself – my advice is to give it another go and try until you succeed."

Ailsa Rutter OBE, Director of Fresh, said: "There has possibly never been a more important time to quit smoking than right now. The coronavirus pandemic is focusing everyone's minds on staying healthy and for people who smoke, quitting is an incredibly important step.

"We know that some people think it is too late to see any benefits from quitting smoking, but the fact is that there are health benefits to be gained from quitting at any age.”

Experts think there are three reasons why under 30s might have been more likely to change their smoking habits since lockdown:

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l With the loss of pubs, bars, parties and other social gatherings, many young smokers may have had fewer opportunities to smoke and been more inclined to quit.

l Reduced incomes may be a big motivator for some to quit, given that young smokers are more price sensitive than older smokers.

l There have been reports of more young people moving home as a result of the pandemic and lockdown. This change of circumstances may be driving a change in behaviour for many.

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