Alberta's Chief Medical Officer warns against smoking, binge drinking

Apr 16 2020, 3:40 pm

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health had some warnings for Albertan’s during Thursday’s coronavirus update.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw stated that, as we stay at home practicing physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, we should take the opportunity to improve our overall health — especially when it comes to smoking and drinking.

She noted that coronavirus is a respiratory illness, so smoking and vaping will increase the risk of severe illness for those who do get infected.

Smoking can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals, she said, though that it is “not yet clear whether these exposures increase the risk of catching COVID-19,” other than the increased chance of contracting the virus through hand to mouth contact.

However, she also stated that “there is growing evidence to suggest that quitting smoking or vaping, even temporarily, can have positive outcomes in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.”

Hinshaw suggested that Albertans who are thinking about quitting should reach out to their pharmacists or doctors about what options are available to support the decision to quit.

“I know quitting is not easy. It takes incredible determination and support,” she said at the press conference.

“This is a stressful time, and quitting can add to that stress that many already feel. Having said that, in a time when it feels like we have little control over many things, this may help to focus on one thing that you can control.”

Hinshaw also mentioned that alcohol intake should be limited during this public health emergency, as over-consumption can cause worsening health issues, risk-taking behaviour, mental health, and violence.

She suggested that Albertans, and Canadians as a whole, follow the national low-risk drinking guidelines, which suggest no more than two drinks a day for women or three drinks a day for men.

“It’s more important now than ever to look after both your physical and mental health,” she said.

“These are challenging days, and I know this virus is taking a heavy toll on families and communities. I know many Albertans are wanting to see that light at the end of the tunnel. Rest assured we are doing everything possible to limit the spread in Alberta and to get our province through this incredibly difficult time.”

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