COLUMBUS, Ga (WRBL)- Health officials are warning smokers have a higher chance of contracting COVID-19.

According to researcher, Doctor Jeff Kingsley of IACT Health of Columbus, smoking weakens your immune system, making smokers more susceptible to the virus.

Kingsley tells News 3 that smokers are doing the worst, and are in the hospital on ventilators battling COVID-19, due to having underlying health conditions, such as emphysema which impacts the lungs.

“If you are around a camp fire you’re going to get smoke into your lungs. The way your body get those particles back out is, there are little finger like projections inside of your lungs that push that debris back out. Smokers paralyze those cilia, those little finger like projections, and so when you do have pneumonia and you’re a smoker its harder to get over it,” said Kingsley.

Kingsley says he encourages all residents to get the COVID vaccination as soon as it becomes available.