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DHEC Urges Smokers to Use Free Quitline to Better Protect Against COVID-19 Complications

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 8, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is reminding smokers that now is an important time to quit smoking as new research indicates those who smoke may experience more severe complications of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. No matter what stage of the quitting process a person is in, DHEC’s S.C. Tobacco Quitline can help.

“The immune system is the body’s way of protecting us from infections and disease, so it’s critical to keep it functioning at its best right now,” said Dr. Virginie Daguise, DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention. “Smoking harms the immune system, which is why free quitting services like the S.C. Tobacco Quitline are so important. Recent findings from the CDC show that smoking can increase the risk for more severe illness from COVID-19.”

DHEC’s S.C. Tobacco Quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)  provides free one-on-one telephone coaching and web-based and text message support 24 hours, seven days a week to help tobacco users quit. The Quitline can help individuals develop personalized quit plans, and free nicotine replacement therapy such as patches, gum and lozenges are available to callers. These smoking cessation services can be accessed by phone or online, allowing South Carolinians to safely remain home during this pandemic while accessing these services. 
   
“Most smokers want to quit, and our goal is to provide free help in a way that best meets their needs,” said Dr. Daguise. “The minute you quit smoking you improve your body’s ability to heal itself.”  

Smoking inflames the lungs. Even one or two cigarettes can cause irritation or coughing. When you quit smoking the inflammation in the airways begins to go down and your lungs can start the recovery process.

Other ways to strengthen the immune system include:

  • Getting proper sleep
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Reducing stress
  • Being physically active
  • Eating fruits and vegetables
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol

For more information and resources, visit www.scdhec.gov/quitforkeeps or call the S.C. Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

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