NEW DELHI: Smokers could be living on edge of contracting coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as they are likely to be more vulnerable to the virus as compared to non-smokers, according to a review of studies by public health experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO said tobacco smoking is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases. Tobacco kills more than 8 million people globally every year and more than 7 million of these deaths are from direct tobacco use and around 1.2 million are due to non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.
“The Covid-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronavirus and other diseases. Tobacco is also a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by the Covid-19. Available research suggests that smokers are at higher risk of developing severe disease and death,” said a statement issued by the WHO.
About 28.6 per cent of the population in the country consume tobacco and half of them consume it in smoked form. Over 25 states and UTs have banned the use of smokeless tobacco products and spitting in public places in view of the Covid-19.
“The WHO urges researchers, scientists and the media to be cautious about amplifying unproven claims that tobacco or nicotine could reduce the risk of Covid-19. There is currently insufficient information to confirm any link between tobacco or nicotine in the prevention or treatment of the Covid-19,” it added.
It recommended that smokers take immediate steps to quit. “Nicotine replacement therapies, such as gum and patches are designed to help smokers quit tobacco. Within 20 minutes of quitting, elevated heart rate and blood pressure drop. After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the bloodstream drops to normal. Within 2-12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases. After 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease,” it added.