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HSE Quit programme experiencing increase in demand during pandemic

Online support provided to smokers by the HSE’s Quit programme has experienced an increase in demand since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, this newspaper has been told.

“As Covid-19 is a new disease, evidence around comorbidity outcomes in vulnerable groups is limited. It is, however, becoming clear that smoking is a risk factor for coronavirus infection too,” an Executive spokesperson told the Medical Independent on 30 April.

“And just like flu, a coronavirus infection may be more severe in people who smoke.”

The spokesperson said exact statistics had not been compiled yet, however the service had experienced an increase in online demand for the Quit service since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

“This year’s validated figures are not yet available, but whilst the Quit programme has not seen an increase in [phone] calls to the Quitline, it is experiencing an increase in demand for the online supports provided by the Quit programme,” said the spokesperson.

“We would encourage all those who want to quit to use our full range of supports and access the weekly support calls from our trained stop smoking advisors. Freephone Quit on 1800 201 203 [or visit] www.quit.ie.” The spokesperson added that  “data currently suggests tobacco smoking appears to be the most important avoidable risk factor for a poorer prognosis in Covid-19.

“We know quitting smoking helps build your natural resistance to all types of infections including coronavirus. When you stop, the natural hairs in your airways (cilia) begin to work again sweeping away viruses and bacteria within your airways, helping to prevent them from reaching your lung tissue.”

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