DHEC urges South Carolinians to quit smoking to better protect against COVID-19


COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is reminding smokers that smoking may cause more severe complications of COVID-19.

Smoking inflames the lungs and harms the immune system, making it harder for the body to defend itself against the coronavirus. Just one or two cigarettes can cause irritation or coughing.

“The immune system is the body’s way of protecting us from infections and disease, so it’s critical to keep it functioning at its best right now,” said Dr. Virginie Daguise, DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention.

DHEC says when a person quits smoking, the inflammation in the airways begins to go down and the lungs start the recovery process. Health officials say now is an important time to quit smoking, and the S.C. Tobacco Quitline can help.

DHEC’s S.C. Tobacco Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW) provides free one-on-one telephone coaching and web-based and text message support 24 hours, seven days a week to help tobacco users quit.

The Quitline can help individuals develop personalized quit plans, and free nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, gum and lozenges are available to callers. These smoking cessation services can be accessed by phone or online, allowing South Carolinians to safely remain home during this pandemic while accessing these services.

“Most smokers want to quit, and our goal is to provide free help in a way that best meets their needs,” said Daguise. “The minute you quit smoking you improve your body’s ability to heal itself.” 

Other ways to strengthen the immune system include:

  • Getting proper sleep
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Reducing stress
  • Being physically active
  • Eating fruits and vegetables
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol

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