Toilet paper and groceries are not the only supplies flying off the shelves in Tahlequah.
A recent article by the Tahlequah Daily Press indicated tobacco shops and convenient stores 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 Cherokee County will be closed 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," said Lora Buechele, Cherokee County TSET Healthy Living Program coordinator. "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 that 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 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 may 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." Buechele said the study examined 1,099 patients in China with COVID-19, showing of 173 patients who had severe symptoms, 16.9 percent of them were current smokers and 5.2 percent had previously smoked. Among the patients with less-severe symptoms, 11.8 percent were current smokers and 1.3 were former smokers.
"Among this global pandemic is great opportunity for tobacco users to improve their health and quit tobacco for good," said Buechele. "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 individual lifestyles. 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.