A smoker extinguishes a cigarette in an ash tray in Sacramento, Calif.

Thursday marks the American Cancer Society’s 45th Great American Smokeout — a day encouraging smokers to quit — and the Frederick County Health Department is offering resources to help people achieve this goal.

Residents who are 18 and older may be eligible for free nicotine replacement therapy through the health department’s tobacco cessation program. This type of therapy improves quit outcomes and reduces discomfort associated with quitting, according to the health department.

There are more than 21,000 adult smokers in Frederick County, according to the 2018 Maryland Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Tobacco use is responsible for one in five deaths across the country, with an annual toll of 480,000 deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.

“Tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S.,” the health department said in a statement. “Quitting is hard. It takes commitment and starts with a plan, often takes more than one quit attempt, and requires a lot of support. Getting help through counseling and/or prescription medications can double or triple your chances of quitting successfully. Support is also important and smoking cessation programs can be a great help.”

While scientists are still learning about COVID-19, the CDC and World Health Organization say smoking can put people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

"Since COVID-19 is an infection that affects the lungs, tobacco users may be vulnerable to being seriously infected by COVID-19 due to reduced lung capacity, and possible lung disease, which would greatly increase their risk of serious illness from the disease," P.J. Miller, a prevention specialist with the county health department, wrote in an email.

Citing a systematic review of five studies, Miller said scholars found smokers were 1.4 times more likely than non-smokers to have severe COVID-19 symptoms. Smokers were also 2.4 times more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit, require mechanical ventilation or die, he wrote

To access nicotine replacement therapy and free, confidential coaching plus other benefits, call the Maryland Tobacco Quitline 24/7 at 1-800-784-8669 or visit Frederick County residents can also call the health department at 301-600-1755 to register for free smoking cessation services. For more information, visit the Frederick County Health Department’s website at, hover over the “Our Services” tab and click “Prevention Programs” under the “Behavioral Health Services” section.

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