COMMENTARY: Coronavirus and smoking

As we know, our communities are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is our job to keep each other safe by following all precautions suggested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies such as staying at home, disinfecting areas that are touched on a regular basis, following social distancing recommendations whenever we do go out and limiting exposure to and from other family members and friends.

According to the CDC website, the novel coronavirus causes mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and breathing complications. This being said, it is safe to assume that individuals who are smokers can be seriously affected by COVID-19.

The CDC also informs us that smoking can cause lung disease by damaging your airways and the small air sacs found in your lungs. The lungs are what help us breathe; if individuals are already damaging their lungs by smoking cigarettes, COVID-19 is more likely to cause severe damage in them since they are weaker than a non-smoker’s.

If you are thinking about quitting, use the current world situation as your reason now more than ever, as it could increase the odds of beating the novel coronavirus. If you have a loved one who smokes, encourage them to quit today — and don’t forget that secondhand smoking can also affect your lungs.

As we have been hearing throughout the weeks from experts, it is important to flatten the curve as essential medical supply items that need to be used to fight COVID-19 are not going to be readily available if we reach a high peak. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services website, as of April 22, Region 11 reported 996 confirmed cases of COVID-19. There were 24 fatalities at that time within our region and 517 total fatalities in Texas. With this in mind, it is imperative that our community do everything possible to stay healthy and safe including quitting an unhealthy habit.

Through these tough and uncertain times, it is understandable that stress and anxiety may spike. Dealing with this new stress in a healthy manner could better your odds of contracting any sickness or disease. At the same time, if you are taking good care of your health, encourage someone else to do the same. Prevention is the first step our community should take toward battling the world’s current situation.

The Prevention Resource Center, a program of Behavioral Health Solutions of South Texas, serves as the central data collection repository for Region 11 and the developer of a yearly Regional Needs Assessment, which is available to community members at no cost and can be downloaded on our website: www.prc11.org/data. PRC wants to ensure that our communities stay safe throughout whatever the course of the next few weeks brings and in the long run.

If you are interested in becoming a part of this project and would like to play a role in the 2020 Regional Needs Assessment process or would like data presentations and more, please contact me at edsalinas@bhsst.org or Karen Rodriguez, PRC data coordinator, at krodriguez@bhsst.org.

Eduardo Salinas is public relations coordinator at the Prevention Resource Center in Pharr.