iCovidQuit Campaign

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There's never been a better time to quit smoking. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw just how vulnerable our bodies can be, and doesn't it make sense to do everything we can to prevent disease from exploiting our weaknesses? Smoking weakens your lungs, which is where the coronavirus takes hold. Smoking also weakens your immune system, making it harder to fight off infections. In fact, smoking damages nearly every organ in the body. The good news is, now there are more resources than ever to help people quit!

Are smokers more likely to contract COVID-19?

Research is still inconclusive regarding whether a smoker's lungs are more susceptible to "grabbing" the virus. But since smoking involves hand-to-mouth contact, it does increase the possibility of transmitting viruses from hand to mouth. This explains why even vaping or smoking a water pipe may also be especially risky right now.

Is COVID-19 more serious for smokers who contract the virus?

Yes. There are many studies that conclusively show that smokers who contract COVID-19 become more seriously ill and have worse outcomes. Smokers with COVID-19 are more likely to go to the ICU, be hooked up to a ventilator to help them breathe, and more likely to die. Smoking increases the duration and severity of other viral infections as well.

Why does COVID-19 make it more important to stop smoking?

Because COVID-19 affects the lungs and smokers' lungs are weaker than those of non-smokers. Smoking damages the tiny hair-like cilia of the lungs, making them less able to sweep away dirt and mucous. When the cilia can't clean the lungs completely, the lungs are more susceptible to getting and fighting infections. Smoking also weakens the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight infections.

I've already been vaccinated. Why should I quit smoking now?

The lungs begin working better within the first few weeks of quitting smoking, the risk of heart attack goes down and the immune system begins to heal, improving the ability to fight other infections. The benefits of quitting smoking are numerous and begin almost immediately - within 20 minutes - of the last cigarette.

Is there any evidence to support the speculation that nicotine protects lungs from COVID-19 infection?

Not at this time, but several studies are trying to explore this issue. Until we know more, it is prudent to assume there is no protective effect.

Can you transmit COVID-19 through cigarette smoke?

COVID-19 is most likely transmitted through close contact with a person while they are infectious or 24 hours before their symptoms appeared, touching contaminated objects or surfaces and then touching your mouth or face, or close contact with a person with a confirmed infection who coughs or sneezes. Coughing is a risk factor for the spread of COVID-19. The irritation caused in the airways by inhaling tobacco means that people who smoke tend to cough more frequently than non-smokers.

This pandemic has been full of fear, worry and anxiety for me. How can I manage my stress without smoking?

Though it feels like a relief for a short time, the body actually goes through withdrawal, physically and mentally, between cigarettes because it's addicted. Quitting smoking will actually lower one's overall stress after about 1-3 weeks with effects similar to an anti-depressant. Yet another benefit to quitting!

I already have COVID-19. Will quitting smoking help me now?

Yes! After 8 hours of not smoking, oxygen levels begin to return to normal levels. This helps tissues and blood vessels get more oxygen, making it easier to breathe and easier to manage symptoms of COVID-19.

OK. I'm ready to try. How can I quit smoking?

Calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW is a great first step! It's important to have support. When you call, you can talk to a counselor as much or as little as you'd like. They can help you create a quit plan and even refer you to a healthcare provider who can help with other resources such as medications an/or over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy.

I work at a substance abuse treatment facility. I want to encourage our clients to quit smoking because of extra risk from COVID-19, but am hesitant; it seems like too much to add to their plates right now. Is it?

Great question! Quitting smoking actually improves someone's chances of long-term sobriety by 25%! Through the California Behavioral Health and Wellness Initiative, we at the SCLC have provided technical support and guided many programs through their process of becoming tobacco-free. In the interest of improving a person's overall wellness, encouraging tobacco-free recovery provides more and longer-lasting benefits to your clients. Contact us at (877) 509-3786 for more information, resources and support!


For Individuals

SmokefreeTXT: A mobile text messaging service designed for adults and young adults across the United States who are trying to quit smoking.


Quitlines: If you want to talk to a quit smoking counselor right away, call 1–800–QUIT–NOW (1–800–784–8669). This page from the CDC has videos that show what your patients can expect when they call 1-800-QUIT-NOW and how they can get the most out of their experience. When someone calls 1-800-QUIT-NOW, they can speak confidentially with a highly trained quit coach. Quitlines provide many of the services and similar support found in a stop-smoking class or from a doctor, and can be a valuable complement to a doctor’s care. Quitlines are available throughout the United States. Coaching help is available in several languages. View the CDC’s Five Reasons Why Calling a Quitline Can Be Key to Your Success.


Quit Smoking Apps: Mobile phone applications can help you prepare to quit, provide support, and track your progress.


Support Groups: Visit your county or state government’s website to see if they offer quit smoking programs in your area. In California visit California Smokers' Helpline


Friends and Family: Getting support from the important people in your life can make a big difference during your quit.


Medications: Doctors can prescribe medicine that may help you quit. There are also over-the-counter products available. If you are using one of these, such as the patch, gum, or lozenges, make sure you have them on hand. Speak to your doctor about the possibility of combining these options to help control your cravings. 


For Providers

Order Quitcards: There are over 4 million QUIT NOW cards in circulation and all types of health professionals and counselors, and peers currently use the approach and the card to help smokers quit. Submit this form and someone will contact you to complete your order. Please allow 4–6 weeks for shipping from our vendor A4. 250 card minimum order. Cards are free of charge.


Toolkits and Information: There are several recommended places for healthcare providers to find helpful resources online, including: 

Webinars: SCLC offers Continuing Education Units for our live webinars and some recorded collections. Find information on our next live webinar here and peruse previous webinars in our archive. To receive information and reminders about upcoming webinars and more tobacco-related news join our listserv




I Covid Quit Toolkit

Tell us how YOU COVID Quit!

Share your story via email or use #ICOVIDQUIT on social media to inspire others.

“It’s a feedback loop. When I would smoke, the feedback loop was, “I’m stressed, I don’t know what to do, I can’t handle this, smoking a cigarette will make me feel better.” Which it did for, like, five minutes, but then I would want another cigarette, or I would feel guilty, or gross, or unhealthy. But now, that feedback loop is gone because I make other decisions like going for a walk… drinking some juice… calling a friend… And it creates a feedback loop of positivity and health and wellbeing that helps me keep moving forward to reach my goals.

It is really hard and it might take you more than one try. But, you just try again. You start again. So, there’s no shame in starting again. And with COVID, I started to think about my family – the people I love, the people I hold dear to me, the young people that I support in different ways. You have so many gifts to give this world. I recognized the gifts I had, and if I was dead, I couldn’t share those gifts. So… Realize the gifts that you have, realize the love you have to give this world, regardless of the difficulties that are present in this world, especially with this pandemic. And if you quit or try to quit, you will be better able to be in this world as your whole self and give this world what we really need from you. Like love, joy, and all the gifts that you have.”

—Katie, Oakland, CA