The warning comes as emerging evidence shows smokers in hospital who have coronavirus are at a higher risk than non-smokers of severe illness.
Dr Matt Evison, a leading respiratory consultant at Wythenshawe Hospital, which is managed by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “If you’re a smoker and worried about coronavirus then now is a good time to think about stopping smoking.
“Smokers have weakened defences and are more likely to have poor lung health or existing lung conditions which could increase their chances of developing viral pneumonia from COVID-19.
“From the moment you quit smoking the body starts to heal itself which will help the body’s ability to fight off illness. NHS Stop Smoking services are still open and smokers are three times more likely to stop with this help.
“It has always been the case that if you’re a smoker quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. And it’s even more important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Stopping smoking not only benefits the health of the person who quits but has an impact on everyone they live with, especially now we’re all spending so much time in our homes.”
Following growing concerns around the increased risks for smokers, the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership has launched a new campaign to help smokers quit together, while remaining at home.
Jane Pilkington, Executive Director for Population Health at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Life is not always easy right now but quitting smoking is an important way to minimise risks for you and everyone you live with.
“I understand we’re living in stressful times, but I’d like to reassure all smokers in Greater Manchester there is still so much support available to help you quit once and for all. Support services are offering help over the phone and online to ensure everyone can get the help they need whilst staying at home, including access to nicotine replacement.
“It’s important to remember that stopping smoking has many health benefits and reducing the likelihood of severe complications from coronavirus is just one of them.”
Smoking is the leading cause of premature death and ill health in the country. Quitting brings immediate benefits, such as reducing high blood pressure (hypertension) and decreasing the likelihood of respiratory infections and heart disease.
Findings from the UK arm of YouGov’s international Covid Tracker estimates at least 300,000 people have quit smoking successfully, a further 550,000 have tried to quit and 2.4 million have cut down on the amount of cigarettes they smoke due to growing concerns around COVID-19.
The survey – the first in the UK to reveal how coronavirus is impacting smokers’ attitudes towards cigarettes, shows that COVID-19 is significantly increasing smokers’ motivation to quit and to stay quit.
Smokers in Greater Manchester can visit YouCanGM.org, to find information, advice and details of stop smoking support services across all 10 boroughs of Greater Manchester or call the NHS Stop Smoking helpline for free on 0300 123 1044.
Advice and support, as well as nicotine replacement and prescribed medications to help manage cravings and nicotine withdrawal are still available during this period. If you’re isolating at home, local or NHS volunteers can help collect and deliver prescriptions.