Coronavirus advice for smokers and vapers

Key points

The evidence on smoking and coronavirus (COVID-19) is mixed and developing. On the available evidence we advise:

  • If you smoke, you generally have an increased risk of contracting respiratory infection and of more severe symptoms once infected. Coronavirus symptoms may therefore be more severe if you smoke. 
  • Stopping smoking will bring immediate benefits to your health, including if you have an existing smoking-related disease. This is particularly important for both you and for our NHS at a time of intense pressure on the health service.
  • E-cigarettes (vapes) can be an effective aid to stopping smoking and staying smokefree.
  • It is currently unknown what effect vaping may have on susceptibility to severe disease if you are infected with coronavirus.
  • For most people vaping remains significantly less harmful than smoking and it is very important that you avoid returning to smoking.

Smoking and coronavirus

What are the risks of coronavirus for smokers?

Coronavirus is a respiratory viral infection affecting the lungs and airways. There is strong evidence that smoking tobacco is generally associated with an increased risk of developing respiratory viral infections.

Smoking causes damage to the lungs and airways and harms the immune system, reducing your ability to fight against infection. Smoking also involves repetitive hand-to-face movements, which increase the risk of viruses entering the body.

This means that if you smoke, you generally have an increased risk of contracting respiratory infections like coronavirus and you are more likely to have underlying smoking-related conditions, which could lead to more severe disease outcomes. 

Secondhand smoke

People who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also at generally increased risk of harm to their lungs and hearts. Children are especially at risk when exposed to secondhand smoke as they have less well-developed airways, lungs and immune systems. 

How can I reduce my risk?

Stopping smoking now will bring immediate benefits to your health, including if you have an existing smoking-related disease. This is particularly important at a time of intense pressure on the NHS. 

There is a lot of support available to help you to stop smoking, and getting the right support can boost your chances of success by up to 3 times. Using nicotine replacement products reduces tobacco withdrawal symptoms and can help you quit and stay smokefree. Find out more about stop smoking aids.

Vaping and coronavirus 

What are the risks of coronavirus for vapers?

E-cigarettes (vapes) can be an effective aid to stopping smoking and staying smokefree. The evidence on the health risks of e-cigarettes is still developing. However, it is clear that vaping is far less harmful to the respiratory system than smoking. There is very little evidence on vaping and coronavirus and it is unknown whether vaping makes you more susceptible to severe disease if you become infected. If it does, the risk is likely to be much less than if you smoke.

Vaping remains much less harmful than smoking for most people and it is very important that you avoid returning to smoking.

How can I reduce my risk?

Vaping involves repetitive hand-to-face movements, which provide greater risk of a route of entry into the body for viruses. To reduce the risk of contact with coronavirus, you should:

  • wash your hands more frequently than usual, for 20 seconds, with soap and water (or use hand sanitiser if soap is not available)
  • clean your e-cigarette regularly 

Public Health England strongly advises against sharing any vaping devices.

What are the risks of passive exposure to e-cigarette vapour?

Public Health England’s 2018 independent e-cigarette evidence review found that, to date, there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders. There is currently no evidence that coronavirus can be caught from passive exposure to e-cigarette vapour, but in the absence of evidence we recommend that vapers avoid exhaling clouds of vapour in the presence of others.
    
Get advice on using e-cigarettes to help you stop smoking.

Shisha smoking and coronavirus

What are the risks of coronavirus for shisha smokers?

Shisha smoking carries all the health risks of smoking and sharing the mouthpiece greatly increases the risk of spreading coronavirus. Public Health England strongly advises against sharing any smoking devices.

Worried about your symptoms? 

See the NHS coronavirus advice for the most up-to-date information.