Smokers across south east London are being encouraged to use the lockdown to finally quit, not just for the usual health benefits but also to reduce the risk of developing life-threatening complications from Covid-19.

'Quit for Covid' is a new national movement being supported by Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, with a Stop Smoking team available to support smokers to make a positive change.

One patient even caught Covid-19 weeks after deciding to give up smoking, and says the experience of "not being able to breathe" was a turning point in her quest to quit.

The trust says it has had a rising number of people calling them to say they want to use this pandemic as an "opportunity to break free from the addiction to cigarettes" so they can help protect themselves and their families from the dangers of smoking.

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Stopping smoking helps protect your lungs and immune system, in turn lowering your risk of developing the more life-threatening effects of Covid-19 if you were to catch the virus.

Matt Seal, Stop Smoking Team Lead, said: “The Stop Smoking team is here to support smokers to make a positive change, as we've have lots of people calling us want to use this pandemic as an opportunity to break free from the addiction to cigarettes, so they can protect themselves, their families, and the NHS.”

Saf, a patient at Lewisham and Greenwich Trust, had tried several times to give up smoking before she sought out help with the Stop Smoking Team in February.

She said she was "determined to tackle her addiction," mainly because she was spending around £10,000 a year on cigarettes and alcohol, and she had decided she wanted to put this money towards a flat.

Saf had two face-to-face appointments with the Stop Smoking leads, before coronavirus forced the service to switch to telephone only.

Saf, who has asthma, was given a course of Champix tablets to help relieve the craving and withdrawal symptons, and managed to cut down her smoking a lot, though still had the odd one.

But two weeks after officially quitting, she developed coronavirus symptoms.

It started out as just a cold, followed by inexplainable fatigue, but without realising it might be Covid-19, she kept on going until she awoke one night with real difficulty breathing and feeling extremely scared.

Her condition became worse, until all she could do was sit in bed through the fevers, chills and sweating. Her ears felt blocked and her sense of taste and smell disappeared, making her unable to taste even highly seasoned food.

The 111 advice service confirmed that her symptoms were likely to be Covid-19. Fortunately Saf’s health gradually improved over the next two weeks.

Now, Saf is well and also smoke free.

Reflecting, she said: "To be honest, saving money was my main motivation for stopping smoking.

"However, waking up unable to breathe was really scary, and a turning point for me.

"My coronavirus symptoms made me feel absolutely terrible – like having sludge in your lungs. Taking the Champix and the support from Matt made a real difference this time, and has helped me quit, hopefully this time for good.”

The Stop Smoking team are available to offer phone advice and support, as well as arranging stop smoking medications on prescription.

Please call them on 0800 0820 388 to find the support that is right for you, or visit