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Pandemic panic buying has included tobacco products

Staff Writer
The Shawnee News-Star

Toilet paper and groceries are not the only supplies flying off the shelves in Shawnee and surrounding communities. Residents may have noticed long lines at tobacco shops and convenient stores to purchase tobacco. Pottawatomie County tobacco retailers have seen a spike in tobacco sales since the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic has started hitting closer to home.

As schools and many businesses and facilities in Pottawatomie County close for protective social distancing, now can be a great time for tobacco users to make a plan to quit to further protect themselves and others in their household. That's because COVID-19 symptoms are often more severe for people with heart and respiratory illnesses that can be caused or worsened by tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report tobacco users are at an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more. Among other health risks, tobacco users are prone to respiratory illness potentially increasing the risk for severe symptoms associated with COVID-19. Also common among tobacco users and individuals exposed to secondhand smoke is asthma. The CDC reports that individuals with asthma are potentially at higher risk for becoming very ill from COVID-19. The virus affects the respiratory tract, can cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a recent study suggests that “smokers are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 than those who don’t smoke. The study examined 1,099 patients in China with COVID-19, showing that of 173 patients who had severe symptoms, 16.9% of them were current smokers and 5.2% had previously smoked. Among the patients with less-severe symptoms, 11.8% were current smokers and 1.3% former smokers.”

“Among this global pandemic, now is a great opportunity for tobacco users to improve their health and quit tobacco for good,” said Holly Gordon, Pottawatomie County TSET Healthy Living Program Team Lead. “Whether you’re ready to quit right away, or you’re thinking about quitting, the Helpline’s free resources and Quit Coaches can help you create a personalized plan that works for you.”

The Helpline’s free customizable services include coaching over the phone or on the web, as well as text and email support, and free patches, gum and lozenges. These tools provide flexibility for Oklahomans searching for a way to quit that fits their lifestyle. Those seeking to quit tobacco can also talk to their health care providers about receiving additional cessation benefits like nicotine replacement therapy or prescription medication. For Oklahomans who are not quite ready to quit, the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline can provide information and resources to help prepare for a successful quit attempt.

Call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit OKhelpline.com to explore all the free services and resources available to Oklahomans. Connect with the Helpline through social media by liking the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline on Facebook or following @OKhelpline on Twitter and Instagram.