October is Healthy Lung Month, which is to set aside for lung health awareness and recognized by the American Lung Association and several health advocacy organizations across the U.S. It is designed to help educate the public about the importance of protecting their lungs against general neglect, bronchitis, mold, air pollution and smoking, a press release said.

The Smoking Cessation Trust encourages Louisiana smokers to “love your lungs” by quitting cigarettes and encouraging friends and family members to quit, as well.  The group says this is especially important as the nation continues to navigate the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Evidence has shown that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19, as they may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase risk of serious illness, the release said.

“If infected by COVID-19, smokers can significantly spread the virus in the community,” said Juan J. Gershanik, president of  Orleans Parish Medical Society and medical director of West Jefferson Medical Center’s NICU. “That is why, in addition to wearing a face mask, which decreases the chances of the spread, smokers are strongly encouraged to quit.”

Lung disease affects an astounding number of Americans. More than 35 million Americans live with a chronic lung disease like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

“We know it’s hard to quit cigarettes,” said Mike Rogers, CEO of Smoking Cessation Trust Management Services. “That’s why we’re taking the opportunity of Healthy Lung Month, and related observances such as the upcoming Great American Smokeout on Thursday, Nov. 19, to remind people of the damaging effects of smoking and to encourage them to protect their lungs from nicotine and other carcinogens and general pollutants. We want everyone, especially as we continue to battle COVID-19, to try their best to quit and to lead healthier lives.”

Here are a few tips from the American Lung Association:

Don't smoke: Cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Cigarette smoke can narrow the air passages and make breathing more difficult. It causes chronic inflammation, or swelling in the lung, which can lead to chronic bronchitis. Over time, cigarette smoke destroys lung tissue and may trigger changes that grow into cancer. If you smoke, it's never too late to benefit from quitting. The American Lung Association can help whenever you are ready.

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Prevent infection: A cold or other respiratory infection can sometimes become profoundly serious. There are several things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based cleaners are a good substitute if you cannot wash.
  • Avoid crowds during the cold and flu season.
  • Good oral hygiene can protect you from the germs in your mouth leading to infections. Brush your teeth at least twice daily and see your dentist at least every six months.
  • Get vaccinated every year against influenza. Talk to your health care provider to find out if the pneumonia vaccine is right for you.
  • If you get sick, keep it to yourself. Protect the people around you, including your loved ones, by keeping your distance. Stay home from work or school until you are feeling better.

Minimize exposure to outdoor air pollution: The air quality outside can vary from day to day and sometimes is unhealthy to breathe. Knowing how outdoor air pollution affects your health and useful strategies to minimize prolonged exposure can help keep you and your family well. Climate change and natural disasters can also directly impact lung health.

Get regular health care: Regular checkups help prevent diseases, even when you are feeling well. This is especially true for lung disease, which sometimes goes undetected until it is serious. During a checkup, your health care provider will listen to your breathing and listen to your concerns. If you need health insurance, learn more about your options.

Exercise: Whether you are young or old, slender or large, or able-bodied or living with a chronic illness or disability, being physically active can help keep your lungs healthy. Learn how exercise can strengthen your lungs.

“We are committed to helping Louisiana smokers quit with the help of the Trust’s free products and services, and hope that many will decide that October’s ‘Healthy Lung Month’ will be an ideal time to begin their journey to quitting. With two years left to this free cessation program, we also encourage our members, and all smokers across Louisiana, to quit nicotine in all its many forms,” Rogers said.

The Trust has registered more than 111,000 eligible Louisiana residents who are on the path to quitting their nicotine addiction and loving their lungs.

For information, for tips to apply for the free products and services provided by the Louisiana Smoking Cessation Trust, or to find a cessation provider, visit www.smokefreela.org, call (504) 529-5665 or toll-free at (855) 259-6346.