World No Tobacco Day: COVID-19 threat enough to quit smoking

Hyderabad: Over the past one year, doctors and health experts around the world have deciphered many newer aspects of risks to human life, especially during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the severity of coronavirus is higher among those who smoke cigarettes regularly.

Every year, May 31 is observed as World No Tobacco Day, so on the eve of this day, experts have warned the world that if this health emergency is not threat enough for people to quit smoking, then nothing is.

Commenting on dangers associated with smoking during this pandemic, Surendra Bathula, Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist, SLG Hospitals pointed out that tobacco products kill more than 8 million people each year, and tobacco use is the primary cause of 25 per cent of all cancer deaths.

“It is a known fact that tobacco causes respiratory infections and aggravates severity of the diseases. Worldwide, many studies clearly exposed that tobacco consumption increases risk when the person contracts Covid-19, because smoking impairs lung function making it difficult for the human body to fight off coronavirus.

It is established that smoking increases expression and upregulation of ACE-2 receptors in the lungs, giving abundant space for coronavirus to invade the human body, replicate itself, and cause severe harm,” he said.

“Quitting the best thing! But, if you cannot do that immediately, you could shift to using e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco; do not share devices like waterpipes and e-cigarettes with others; protect others from the harms of second-hand/passive smoking; maintain physical distance with other while you are smoking; and above all, do not spit in public places, because that could spread viruses,” said Mervin Leo, Cluster COO, Gleneagles Global Hospitals.

According to Vaibhav Agrawal, Consultant, internal medicine and critical care, Wockhardt Hospital, Nagpur, the relation between Covid-19 and cardiovascular health is important because tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke are major causes of cardiovascular diseases globally.

“The effect of Covid-19 on the cardiovascular system could thus make pre-existing cardiovascular conditions worse. Additionally, a weaker cardiovascular system among Covid-19 patients with a history of tobacco use could make such patients more vulnerable to severe symptoms, thereby increasing the risk.”

Anusha Reddy Karra, Internal Medicine, Western Plains Hospital, Dodge City, USA, pointed out smoking is also associated with increased development of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a key complication for severe cases of Covid-19, among people with severe respiratory infections.

“From the personal experience of working in the United States, it is more than evident that people who smoke or into drug abuse suffered during this Covid-19 pandemic. Inability of such patients to respond to cure administered suggests how weak the human immune system turns due to smoking and how vulnerable such people are when they contract coronavirus,” said Anusha.

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