Smokers return to quit wards as Covid effects hit home

Getting sick with Covid helps smokers kick the habit.

Nelson Marlborough Health’s smoking cessation service had seen referrals drop by around 50% during the pandemic, but over the past month this has started to return to normal levels.

It comes as the service recorded its 1000th success story in 5 years.

Miraka Norgate, a smoke-free auahi kore health promoter, said people of all age groups were starting to name Covid among the drivers of the shutdown.

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She had spoken to a man in his 40s who said knowing how Covid could affect the lungs made him want to quit, and when she followed up a week later he was cigarette-free for two days.

Similarly, a teenage client had used it as motivation to quit smoking, she said.

Many smokers realized that they would be at greater risk if they caught the respiratory virus.

“Smoking has a big impact on the lungs, so they know that.”

Miraka Norgate, a smoke-free auahi kore health advocate, said Covid was a major driver of people dropping out.

Andy MacDonald / Stuff

Miraka Norgate, a smoke-free auahi kore health advocate, said Covid was a major driver of people dropping out.

Many were also choosing to give up while battling the virus and seeing the impact it was having on their breathing, she said.

Smokefree team leader Kelly Atkinson said smokers were known to be at higher risk of serious illness and death if they caught Covid.

A recent online survey in Australia, New Zealand and the UK found that only 51% of smokers were aware of the increased risk.

But, they were starting to get customer feedback that Covid was on their minds, she said.

“People are becoming more aware of their respiratory health. It’s been something on people’s minds, and it’s been a driving force for some people.

The impact of Covid as a respiratory disease is pushing people to quit smoking.

Charlotte Caillé / Stuff

The impact of Covid as a respiratory disease is pushing people to quit smoking.

While Covid was pushing people to quit now, that hadn’t been the case for much of the pandemic, with the service seeing a 50% drop in referrals, she said.

But, over the past month, that had rebounded to steady levels.

“We’re now in a different phase of Covid, and there’s probably a bit more space for people to think about other things.”

Because the virus was going to be something the community had to live with, helping people quit smoking was important to keep them as healthy as possible, Atkinson said.

The health benefits of quitting smoking could be seen with days, she says.

“It’s never too late to quit smoking and there’s plenty of support available.”

The Quit Smoking Service provided coaches to help people through the quitting process, and people could self-refer, she said.

Quitting Smoking – A Timeline

  • 20 minutes: drop in heart rate.
  • 8 to 12 hours: the blood level of carbon monoxide drops and blood oxygen increases.
  • 48 hours: Smell and taste improve as nerve endings damaged by smoking begin to regrow.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months: Risk of heart attack decreases as circulation improves, blood pressure and heart rate decrease, and oxygen levels and lung function improve.
  • 1-9 months: Cough, shortness of breath and sinus congestion will decrease. Energy levels increase.
  • 1 year: the risk of heart disease will be halved.
  • 5 years: The risk of stroke decreases, depending on the amount and duration of smoking and your general health.
  • 10 years: the risk of lung cancer drops to that of a person who has never smoked and the risk of other cancers drops considerably.
  • 15 years: the risk of heart disease is the same as that of a person who has never smoked.

For help quitting smoking call 0800 NO SMOKE (0800 667 665) or email: [email protected]

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