Clearing the Air: COVID-19 and Smoking

Published by Tobacco Stops With Me on April 13, 2020

With schools closed and non-essential workers ordered to stay home, many Oklahoma families will be sheltered in place for the coming weeks. For a number of people, this means sharing a roof with a smoker or vaper, which can lead to dangerous secondhand exposure. How does this relate to COVID-19?

New COVID-19 research increasingly suggests that smokers and vapers are more susceptible to developing deadly symptoms caused by the virus. This includes non-smokers who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke. Evidence shows that exposure to smoke and e-cigarette vapor damages the lungs, making them unable to respond as effectively and allowing the virus take hold. According to researchers, protecting yourself from smoke, vapor and secondhand smoke will go a long way in helping your body fight back.

When it comes to COVID-19 and your family’s health, you can protect yourself and your loved ones by having conversations without controversy. Here are tips for having discussions about smoking and secondhand smoke to protect your family:

1. Set expectations up front.

Have a conversation with smokers and vapers in your life. Avoid judgment and encourage them to quit when they’re ready. Remind them that you do not allow smoking or vaping inside the house. It’s nothing personal. You just want to protect them and others from the dangers of secondhand smoke and vaping.

2. Keep it polite and empathetic.

A polite, respectful tone goes a long way — and it’s far more effective than confrontation. You can also acknowledge and empathize with a loved one’s struggle while maintaining boundaries.

Try saying something like:

I imagine cigarette cravings can feel intense, but could you wait a few minutes?”

Avoid saying something like:

“I can’t believe you’re exposing my family to all of those harmful chemicals. You should be ashamed of yourself.” 

Also, it’s helpful to let other family members know in advance that the smoker may experience cravings and changes in mood as a result. 

3. Provide distractions.

One effective way to help smokers cope with nicotine cravings is to provide family activities that keep them engaged. Puzzles, board games or card games are excellent distractions!

4. Offer support.

Every relationship is unique. If the opportunity arises, help your loved ones find the resources they need to quit. Tell them about the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline’s free services, like nicotine replacement therapy and coaching. Then, help them make the call or set up a profile at OKhelpline.com.

Starting these conversations can seem uncomfortable, but protecting your loved ones’ health should be your top priority. When you approach them in a way that’s respectful, empathetic and supportive, they’re less likely to escalate — and the outcomes are far more productive. Remember: knowledge is power, and communication is key. In times like these, protecting the health and well-being of your family is the most important thing in the world.

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