World No Tobacco Day – May 31

Does seeing these signs cause you stress? We’ve all heard the stories, read the messages and know that smoking is not good for your health, but quitting can be overwhelming and not an easy thing to do, particularly on your own, without support. To sign up for an internet based study to help quit smoking click here.

Quitting smoking has always been a popular topic regarding improving overall health but this conversation has been at the forefront lately and become an urgent goal at this time of COVID-19.

Not only is smoking one of the key risk factors for heart disease, among many other health complications it causes, evidence has shown smokers are more impacted by COVID-19 and do worse than non-smokers when hospitalised with COVID-19. For example, there is an 80% greater risk of current smokers developing severe COVID-19 compared to those who have never smoked.

Patients with any smoking history are vulnerable to severe COVID-19 and worse outcomes in hospital. They are also more likely to be admitted to ICU with need for mechanical ventilation than non-smokers. This is not surprising given that smokers are more likely to have a chronic illness such as respiratory or cardiovascular disease. 

Smokers may also be more likely to acquire COVID-19. For example, when they smoke, the fingers and the cigarette in their hand (both potentially contaminated) come in contact with their lips increasing the possibility of hand-mouth transmission. Smokers also sometimes share cigarettes and lighters. In addition, smokers have a poorer immune response to infections in general, e.g. they’re more likely to acquire the flu.

If you are looking for the right time to stop, it’s always right now. Smokers who find it hard to not smoke when socialising with other smokers, may find that the restricted socializing with COVID and ability to work from home makes quitting easier. Also, those who find social restriction to be less stressful may find it easier to stop smoking now too. Rates of smoking cessation and the use of “remote cessation support” have been higher during COVID-19.  So now is a great time for smokers to stop!

Professor Geoffrey Tofler has received funding from Heart Research Australia previously on his research helping Australians quit smoking. He is now conducting an internet based study to get people to stop smoking – and are looking for smokers to participate. For more information or to sign up visit

To read a personal story going through this study click here.

For more information on smoking and your heart click here.

If you have family or friends that are smokers, feel free to share this with them.


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Guan WJ, Ni ZY, Hu Y, et al. Clinical characteristics of coronavirus disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med. 2020.

Jackson SE, Garnett C, Shahab L, Oldham M, Brown J. Association of the COVID-19 lockdown with smoking, drinking and attempts to quit in England: an analysis of 2019-20 data. Addiction. 2021 May;116(5):1233-1244.

Onder G, Rezza G, Brusaferro S. Case fatality rate and characteristics of patients dying in relation to COVID 19 in Italy. JAMA. 2020 Mar 23.

Reddy, R. K., Charles, W. N., Sklavounos , A., Dutt , A., Seed, P. T., & Khajuria, A. The effect of smoking on COVID 19 severity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Medical Virology. 2020 Aug 13.