Getting sick with Covid is helping prompt smokers to kick the habit.
Nelson Marlborough Health's Stop Smoking Service had seen referrals fall by about 50 per cent during the pandemic, but in the past month that was starting to return to normal levels.
It comes as the service has recorded its 1000th success story in 5 years.
Smokefree auahi kore health promoter Miraka Norgate said people across all age groups were starting to name Covid among the drivers for quitting.
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She had spoken to one 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 two days cigarette free.
Similarly, a teenaged client had used it as a motivation to quit, she said.
Many smokers were realising that they would be at greater risk if they caught the respiratory virus.
“Smoking has a big impact on the lungs, so they do know that.”
Many were also choosing to give up while battling the virus and seeing the impact it had on their breathing, she said.
Smokefree team leader Kelly Atkinson said it was known that smokers were 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 per cent of smokers were aware of the heightened risk.
But, they were starting to get feedback from clients that Covid was on their minds, she said.
“People are more and more aware of their respiratory health. It’s been something on people’s minds, and it has been a driver for some people.”
While Covid was driving people to quit now, that hadn’t been the case for much of the pandemic, with the service seeing a 50 per cent drop in referrals, she said.
But, over the past month that had rebounded to regular levels.
“We’re in a different phase of Covid now, and there is 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, it was important to help people quit smoking to keep them as healthy as possible, Atkinson said.
The health benefits of quitting smoking could be seen with days, she said.
“It’s never too late to quit and there’s lots of support available.”
The Stop Smoking Service provided coaches to help people through the quitting process, and people could self-refer, she said.
Quitting smoking – a timeline
- 20 minutes: heart rate drops.
- 8 to 12 hours: blood carbon monoxide level drops and blood oxygen increases.
- 48 hours: smell and taste improves as nerve endings damaged by smoking begin to regrow.
- 2 weeks to 3 months: risk of heart attack drops as circulation improves, blood pressure and heart rate lower, and oxygen levels and lung function improve.
- 1 to 9 months: Coughing, shortness of breath, and sinus congestion will decrease. Energy levels increase.
- 1 year: risk of heart disease will be halved.
- 5 years: risk of stroke decreases, depending on how much and how long you smoked and your overall health.
- 10 years: risk of lung cancer drops to that of someone who’s never smoked and the risk of other cancers decreases significantly.
- 15 years: risk of heart disease is the same as someone who’s never smoked.
To get help quitting, call 0800 NO SMOKE (0800 667 665) or email: [email protected]