EDMONTON -- Albertans who are looking at pairing their attempts to quit smoking or vaping with their self-isolation need to consider a number of factors, the province's top doc said Thursday.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, giving her daily update on the COVID-19 situation in Alberta, said she's had to field a lot of questions from people about the possibility that smokers could be more susceptible to catch the illness.

"As you know, COVID-19 is a respiratory virus," Hinshaw said. "Smoking and e-cigarettes can expose the lungs to toxic chemicals. It's not yet clear whether these exposures increase the risk of catching COVID-19 however they do increase the risk of severe illness for those that get infected."

She did say there is "growing evidence" that quitting smoking, even temporarily, could help in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

"Smoking increases the risk of any lung infection and this virus mainly affects the lungs."

While she recommended anyone who smokes or vapes to take steps to quit or cut down, she maintained there are a number of things Albertans need to consider first.

"This is a stressful time and quitting can add to that stress that many already feel."

Hinshaw suggests anyone who wants to cut down or quit smoking to contact their doctor or pharmacist for support.

"Alberta Health Services also has a number of supports including a free Alberta Quits hotline that can provide confidential support any day of the week."

Alcohol consumption is also risky during this time, Hinshaw says, because "it can make many things worse."

"All Albertans should be mindful of how much they are drinking," she says. "No more than about two drinks per day for women and three drinks per day for men.

"I know that many Albertans are wanting to see that 'light at the end of the tunnel.' Rest assured, we are doing all we can to limit the spread in Alberta and get our province through this incredibly difficult time."

Alberta surpasses 2,000 cases

Hinshaw says 162 new cases of COVID-19 have been found in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 2,158.

Two more deaths were also reported in Alberta Thursday.

"A male in his 70s in the Calgary zone and a woman in her 80s in the North zone," she reported. "I want to express my sincere condolences to the families and friends of these individuals.

"Every death is a tragedy for those that love them."

She added the victim in the Calgary zone was a resident at a long-term care centre in High River, Alta.