Smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness, disability and death in much of OECD countries. This sobering statistic is well known to all … so it’s no surprise that around two-thirds of smokers in these countries seek to quit. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more important to quit smoking because smoking reduces lung capacity and increases the risk of many respiratory infections. But what can doctors do to help their patients quit smoking?
Smoking in the COVID-19 Era
There have been more than 20 studies that have examined the link between smoking status and complications from COVID-19. Whether you measure the outcome in terms of death or by using a severity index, such as going to intensive care or being intubated, smoking has resulted in a statistically significant increase in poor prognosis in 80% of cases. Everything we know about the effects of smoking (an increased risk of upper and lower respiratory tract infections) suggests a substantial risk of infections and complications from COVID-19. Here’s what doctors and other healthcare professionals need to do to get their patients to seriously consider quitting smoking as soon as possible.
Start the conversation to reach the patient
The doctor, as the guarantor of the health of his patient, is on the front line in the fight against smoking, especially in these times of pandemic. The patient’s medical record being controlled by his doctor, it is up to the latter to find the words, without distorting reality, to encourage his patient to embark on the path of smoking cessation. Some software makes it possible to « calculate » the best smoking cessation protocol based on the patient’s medical record.
Recognize that nicotine addiction is powerful
More than half of smokers who try to quit on their own fail. The role of the doctor and the health professional is therefore decisive in this matter. The patient and his doctor must agree on the fact that nicotine addiction is powerful and that it requires at the same time wise advice, a certain motivation and drugs and / or less harmful alternatives in a perspective of transition. . The electronic cigarette can play this role, as long as it is used in a medical setting with a protocol of gradually reducing the dose of nicotine over time. Vaporesso electronic cigarettes, for example, allow the use of a nicotine-free e-liquid.
Two in three people try to quit smoking « suddenly »
Over 60% of adults in OECD countries who have ever smoked cigarettes have quit. But among those who still smoke, more than two-thirds try to quit with a sudden withdrawal which results in rather violent side effects, before failing. The fact of wanting to quit smoking on your own shows a good motivation … which must be channeled by the doctor to increase the chances of successful withdrawal.
There are disparities in smoking cessation. We have seen historic declines in smoking, but many groups are being left behind. The smoking rate was found to be highest among the LGBTQ community, those with mental disorders, and the less well-off social classes. In short, smoking, which we will qualify as “long-termist” mainly affects fragile sub-populations which have other priorities… relegating smoking cessation to the bottom of the list.
Explain how quitting smoking improves health
Quitting smoking lowers the risk of developing many chronic diseases, the top of which is cancer, cardiovascular disease and obstructive pulmonary disease. Quitting smoking should be discussed with every smoking patient, regardless of the reason for visiting the doctor. The latter can, if necessary, make the link between smoking and the patient’s state of health.