Skip to main content

COVID-19: advice for smokers and vapers

Public Health Guidance
8 March 2021

This guidance is correct at the time of publishing. However as it is subject to changes, please ensure that the information at time of issue is accurate and correct.

Main 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. COVID-19 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 COVID-19
  • for most people vaping remains significantly less harmful than smoking and it is very important that you avoid returning to smoking
  • visit Quit4You or call 642404 for information and advice on stopping smoking

Smoking and COVID-19

COVID-19 is a respiratory viral infection that affects 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 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, such as COVID-19, and you are more likely to have underlying smoking-related conditions, which could lead to more severe disease outcomes.

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.

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 Manx Care.

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 to quit and stay smokefree. Visit Quit4You for information and advice on stopping smoking.

Vaping and COVID-19

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 COVID-19 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.

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 COVID-19, 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

We strongly advises against sharing any vaping devices.

PHE’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 COVID-19 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.

Visit Isle of Man Government for information and advice on using e-cigarettes to help you stop smoking.

If you vape or are a smoker you must still comply with the social distancing guidelines.

If you are isolating you are not permitted to leave your isolation to smoke or vape.

If you are unable to go outdoors to smoke or vape during lockdown then contact Quit4You for advice and guidance on temporary abstinence from smoking.

Quit4You 642404 quit4you@gov.im

See Self Isolation guidance for further advice

The information in this guidance document has been adapted with kind permission from Public Health England. The content has been taken from Public Health England COVID-19: Advice for smokers and vapers (HTML page)[29 May 2020]

Issued by: Isle of Man Government Cabinet Office, Public Health Directorate, Cronk Coar, Nobles Hospital, Strang, Douglas, Isle of Man IM4 4RJ