If you smoke, you're generally at higher risk of respiratory tract infections, which can affect the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs. There is currently not enough evidence to be sure that people who smoke are at higher risk of being infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19).

However, if you do have poor lung function (as a result of smoking or other health issues), you may be at a higher risk of complications if you get the virus. It's not known how long you need to stop smoking to reduce your risk of complications but quitting smoking has many benefits beyond any link with COVID-19, so it’s always a good time to quit.

Increased risk of getting COVID-19 if you smoke

There isn’t enough evidence to be certain that if you smoke, you're more likely to be infected by COVID-19. The act of smoking usually means that your fingers are in contact with your lips which increases the possibility of virus transmission from hand to mouth.

Avoid sharing bongs and shisha, as this involves sharing mouthpieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19.

If you smoke, you have a higher risk of respiratory tract infections.

Risk of severe complications if you become infected with COVID-19 and smoke

Growing evidence suggests that if you smoke and get COVID-19, you may experience a worse outcome than a non-smoker because smoking damages your lungs, so they don’t work as well. For example, the lungs naturally produce mucus, but if you smoke, you may have more and thicker mucus that is hard to clean out of your lungs. This mucus clogs the lungs and is prone to becoming infected. Smoking also affects the immune system, making it harder to fight infections.

Previous smokers and higher risk of being infected with COVID-19

It's not currently known if you're a former smoker whether you'll have a higher risk of becoming infected than someone who has never smoked. If you smoke, you're at increased risk of lung infections in general, but the lungs do begin to heal when you stop smoking. It’s not yet known how much time is needed to reduce the risk to the same as someone who has never smoked.

If you previously smoked and have now quit and gotten COVID-19, you’ll likely have a lower risk of severe complications than you would have if you continue smoking.

If you quit smoking, how long before your COVID-19 risk of infection reduces?

This isn't currently known for COVID-19, but it’s well established that stopping smoking improves lung function within a few months. Rates of lung infections like bronchitis and pneumonia also decrease.

Get support to stop smoking

You're in the right place. Plenty of methods to quit are listed on Quit HQ so there’s sure to be one that suits you. Everyone’s different. o if one way isn’t working for you, be persistent and try another. Using a combination of methods, like nicotine replacement and Quitline counselling, will improve your chance of quitting successfully.

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Quitline is a telephone service dedicated to helping Queenslanders quit smoking. Contact Quitline on 13 78 48, or request a call from Quitline below.

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Last updated: January 2023