Smokers in Wales urged to quit this year as research shows higher vulnerability to Covid-19

WS020121 Smoking
Smokers are being urged to put quitting at the top of their lists of New Year's resolutions Credit: PA Images

Smokers in Wales are being urged to quit the habit as more evidence shows they are at a greater risk from the effects of Covid-19.

Leading health experts have said quitting should be on every smoker's list of New Year resolutions, with smokers three times more likely to be infected by Covid-19 according to recent research.

Research has also shown that smokers are more likely to suffer more severe symptoms if they catch the virus.

Meanwhile a study by the University of California in Los Angeles has shown that smokers could be two to three times more likely to be infected by Covid-19 due to the damage smoking causes to the body's lung tissue defences.

Fears over the increased risks from the virus contributed to a desire to quit amongst thousands of smokers in 2020.

NHS Wales' Help Me Quit service said it saw a rise in calls and worked to ensure that all smokers were supported by expert advice over the phone and free medication.

Research carried out by ASH and University College London found that an estimated 33,000 Welsh smokers had quit smoking since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and that 41% of smokers surveyed across the UK cited Covid-19 as their main reason for giving up.

ASH Wales has launched its Any Age Any Stage campaign, which seeks to help people stop smoking.

Smoking costs the NHS in Wales around £302m a year Credit: PA Images

ASH Wales CEO Suzanne Cass, said: "Our message to smokers is that it really is never too late or too early to give up.

"No matter how long you've been smoking for the health benefits of quitting are huge.

"Within just 20 minutes of smoking your last cigarette, your body will start to recover and after a year you're 50% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

"If you're a young smoker you may think you'll give up when you're older. But the damage has already started with every 15 cigarettes you smoke leading to a mutation in your cells that could later cause cancer.

"This is not something you can delay. For every smoker out there, old and young, quitting should be an urgent priority."

"Covid-19 has brought about added risks to smokers and as a result, we have seen more and more smokers trying to quit.

"There really has never been a more important time to quit smoking...Let 2021 be the year you stop smoking for good."

Smoking is already the biggest cause of avoidable disease and early death in Wales, killing more than 5,000 people a year.

It costs the NHS in Wales around £302 million a year.