ISOLATION factors could be enticing people to up their puff as community health experts warn smoking is a particularly dangerous risk right now.
The Grampians health region, including Ballarat, has the state's highest smoking rates with one in five adults smoking, according to a Cancer Council Victoria survey last year. Only, there had also been a significant drop in smoking rates across regional Victoria and in disadvantaged communities.
Ballarat Community Health's health promotions manager Louise Feery said Ballarat had been doing well in butting out. Ms Feery was concerned a change in lifestyle amid coronavirus lockdowns could both create a rise in smoking levels and be at higher risk of complicatons, should they contract COVID-19.
Smoking makes people more susceptible to influenza and other chest infections, Ms Feery said, and early data from China and Italy shows smoking is a key factor of poor survival in COVID-19 patients.
Victoria University professor Rosemary Calder, who leads Australia Health Policy Collaboration, told The Courier last week between 78 to 99 per cent of people hospitalised with coronavirus had and existing chronic health condition.
Smoking is a key factor in chronic disease and also an immunosuppressant, research shows.
Ms Feery said even the hand-to-mouth action in smoking went against health recommendations for preventing coronavirus by touching your face.
"What we don't want is people who don't smoke to start smoking or those who do to start smoking more," Ms Feery said.
"It could be (stress or boredom) but it could be that people are working from home."
Often in a workplace smoking is restricted, or you can't smoke on site but at home is a different environment.Louise Feery, Ballarat Community Health health promotions manager
University of Newcastle health researchers say there is no link yet as to whether former smokers are more at risk of COVID-19 than non-smokers.
In writing for The Conversation they said given lungs healed quickly after quitting smoking, butting out was more likely to help decrease complications risks.
This quick and dramatic impact could previously be measured in a smokerlyser at Ballarat Community Health to records the carbon monoxide levels in your breath.
Counselling to quit smoking remains available via phone at Ballarat Community Health during pandemic restrictions. Behavioural counselling can help with support in motivation for quitting and strategies for distraction and triggers.
Ms Feery also suggested people check in with their general practitioner, which could be done via tele-health video conferencing, or by visiting a pharmacist, who could help with nicotine replacement therapies.
There is no evidence to suggest COVID-19 can impact the effectiveness of nicotine replacement therapies, according to Quitline, but people are urged to stay in contact with their health professionals.
For more support, call Ballarat Community Health: 5338 4500.
Quitline: 13 78 48 or quit.org.au.
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