COVID-19 is a great reason to join the Great American Smokeout

Facebook roundtable with UC Davis experts provides tips for quitting


If you smoke, the risk of getting sicker or dying from coronavirus increases, and public health experts hope that may be the motivation you need to quit. The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center says the Great American Smokeout is the perfect time to set your quit date. It hosted a Facebook roundtable on the day of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, Nov. 19, 2020, to provide tips and encourage the community to participate.

There’s more than just the risk of COVID-19 complications at stake.

“Before the pandemic, there was already an epidemic and, like COVID-19, it’s spreading throughout the country. I’m talking about the rate of youth vaping, which is skyrocketing,” said Elisa Tong, associate professor of internal medicine and medical director for the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Stop Tobacco Program (SToP). The cessation program is supported by the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Center Cessation Initiative and UC Davis Health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1 in 5 high school students currently use e-cigarettes. Lung illnesses associated with e-cigarettes have landed some people, many of them teens and young adults, in emergency rooms. Vaping is also not approved as a quit-smoking aid.

“Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances and new tobacco products with nicotine salts are even more so,” Tong said in a recent UC Davis Health Cultivating Health Blog that provides an array of resources available to help people stop smoking or vaping.  “We have seven medications and free counseling support that have been proven to help people be tobacco-free for good. It can take multiple tries and we can help.”

Cari Shulkin, a UC Davis tobacco treatment specialist nurse, and Terri Wolf, nurse program manager for Cancer Center SToP, shared insights during the Great American Smokeout Facebook roundtable. They said not only does smoking cause cancer, it can have a negative effect on cancer treatment.

“When patients continue to smoke after being diagnosed with cancer, there can be an impact on how well the patients will do and the risk of developing new cancers or secondary cancers increases,” said Shulkin. “We also see an increase in treatment side effects and surgical complications like pneumonia and wound healing issues with continued smoking.”

For more than 40 years, ACS has held the Great American Smokeout on the third Thursday of November to encourage people to quit smoking before they join family over the Holidays.

Smoking increases the risk of developing 12 different types of cancers. In fact, ACS says tobacco causes 30% of all cancer deaths—including 80% of all lung cancer deaths. 

The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Stop Tobacco Program has the resources to make quitting a reality. To speak with a tobacco treatment specialist and find personalized ways to get support for quitting tobacco products, call 916-734-0718. Support is available in several languages and can be found online, through telephone counseling or text messages.