Smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to highly contagious novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
Smokers are at risk as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of the deadly virus from hand to mouth.
“Smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which would greatly increase the risk of serious illness,” the WHO said. Tobacco weakens the respiratory system making one more vulnerable to the contagious disease.
Smoking products such as water pipes often involve the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 in communal and social settings.
Conditions that increase oxygen needs or reduce the ability of the body to use it properly will put patients at higher risk of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia.
The Union Health Ministry on April 10th, 2020 urged smokers to quit smoking stating that smoking and all forms of smoking products increase the chances of getting infected with COVID-19.
“Smoking transfers the virus from your hand to your mouth. You are more prone to catching COVID-19 infection if you are Smoking or Vaping,” tweeted Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan.
The Health Ministry further urged all the States to invoke appropriate laws to prevent infectious disease and asked the people not to consume and spit smokeless tobacco in public places.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, chewing of smokeless tobacco products (gutkha, zarda, khaini and other chewing tobacco products and paan masala) and areca nut (supari) increases the production of saliva followed by a very strong urge to spit. Spitting in public places increases the dangers of the spread of coronavirus.
Under the Epidemic Diseases Act,1897, the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and the Indian Penal Code 1860, the State governments have the power to prohibit the sale, use and spitting of chewing tobacco in order to check the spread of coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
States like Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Nagaland have already issued orders on the ban of the use of smokeless tobacco products and spitting in public places following the COVID-19 outbreak.
Photo credit: ucihealth.org