HEIGHTENED health risks for smokers who have coronavirus are being highlighted to encourage people to quit.

Health partners in York are supporting the Today is the Day campaign to help smokers 'quit for Covid’ by sharing health information and highlighting support services.

As a respiratory infection, which can cause life-threatening complications affecting the heart and the lungs, Covid-19 puts smokers more at risk of serious disease if they contract the infection.

NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and City of York Council are specifically highlighting those risks.

Dr Nigel Wells, clinical Chair NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Smoking causes damage to the lungs and airways and harms the immune system, reducing a person’s ability to fight against infections such as Covid-19. Smoking also involves repetitive hand-to-face movements, which increase the risk of viruses entering the body.

“This is the time to stop smoking. Unfortunately Covid-19 has affected many of our patients and we know it can be life threatening."

Dr Ruwani Rupesinghe, registrar in respiratory medicine, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said: “As a clinician, I have seen how smoking damages the lungs and the immune system, making it harder to fight off infections. For the last few months all our lives have been impacted by COVID-19 and there is evidence showing that if you are a smoker and catch COVID-19 your symptoms could be more severe than in non-smokers.

“If you are worried about how to go about giving up the habit the excellent news is that local stop smoking services have a track record of successfully supporting people to do so."

Cllr Carol Runciman, executive member for health and social care said: “Smoking is the largest cause of preventable death and every year over 300 people die from smoking-related illness in the city. However, we have seen over a million people quit smoking across the country since the pandemic started in order to improve their health. Evidence shows that support from trained professionals such as the council’s Health Trainer service can triple your chances of successfully stopping smoking. With the NHS facing a challenging winter ahead, there has never been a better time to give quitting a go.”

City of York Council’s Health Trainer service, the stop smoking service for York, is on 01904 553377 or cychealthtrainers@york.gov.uk.