Nearly 40 million adults nationwide smoke cigarettes and about five million teenagers use tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, according to the CDC. It’s a bad habit that could cause these individuals to become seriously ill.

“We know that people who use tobacco products are at an increased risk for respiratory tract infections,” said Chris Owens, the St. Joseph’s Health CNY Regional Center for Tobacco Health Systems director. “Their lungs are comprised because of their tobacco use. We also know the coronavirus tends to target the respiratory system.”

Healthcare experts at St. Joseph’s Health in Syracuse say people who smoke or vape are more likely to contract the coronavirus.

“So, there’s two things to think about it,” said Erik Boergesson, the St. Joseph’s Health Respiratory Therapy and Medical Imaging director. “There’s chronic changes that smoking does to the lungs. And also the acute changes you get from smoking -- just the chemicals in the cigarette smoke. If you smoke a couple cigarettes right now, it’s going to acutely stop your ability to clean lungs as well.”

Boergesson says this could lead to smokers experiencing more severe coronavirus symptoms and a difficult recovery.

“People with chronic lung disease from smoking don’t have the extra lung capacity to deal with infections like a healthy person with a healthy set of lungs would do,” said Boergesson. “Generally, the course of the infections are long, more complicated and harder to treat.”

Boergesson is warning smokers that now is the time to quit.

“Everyone’s challenge is going to be different, but don’t give up,” said Boergesson. “Most people that quit smoking probably quit 3 or 4 times, but it’s the last time that’s most important.”

Because this time, it could save your life.