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Tobacco Consumption and COVID-19

The harms of tobacco use are well-established. Tobacco consumption results in 8 million deaths every year from lung disorders, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes, and hypertension. Smoking tobacco is also a well-known risk factor for severe diseases and death from acute respiratory infections. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, common questions have been asked about whether smokers and vapers are equally susceptible to infection and if the severity of symptoms is higher in them.We attempt to answer some such questions here…

What are the effects of smoking on COVID-19 outcomes?

The possibility of a link between smoking and poor COVID-19 outcomes is that smoking is an established risk factor for respiratory infections, including the flu. This is because it weakens the immune response an individual can mount against viral infection.
In theory, this is also likely to be the case with COVID-19 and additionally, smoking is a well-established risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart disorders, which are clearly linked to more severe illnesses from COVID-19.
Not surprisingly, an analysis of six studies in China shows that smoking is most likely linked with worse outcomes in coronavirus patients.This includes a study that received a lot of media attention, which suggests that among a small sample of COVID-19 patients in China.those who were smokers were among the group of patients whose condition worsened while hospitalized.
Similarly, WHO reports that conditions that increase the need for oxygen or reduce the body’s ability to use it properly put patients at higher risk of severe lung conditions such as pneumonia. It also suggested that smokers are also likely to have lung diseases or reduced lung capacity which can greatly increase the risk of serious illness.

Are the risks of getting the COVID-19 higher for a smokerwhen compared to a non-smoker?

At the time of writing, there are no peer-reviewed studies that have evaluated the risk of COVID-19 associated with smoking. However, tobacco smokers are most likely more vulnerable to contracting coronavirus, as smoking involves contact of fingers and contaminated cigarettes, which increases the chances of virus transmission from hand to mouth. Smoking waterpipes, known as hookah or shisha, involves sharing hoses and mouthpieces, which facilitates the transmission of the virus in social settings.

Are vapers more likely to be infected or have more severe symptoms if infected?

There is no evidence suggesting the relationship between the use of e-cigarettes and COVID-19. However, electronic non-nicotine delivery systems (ENNDS) and electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), more commonly known as e-cigarettes, are likely to be harmful. Given that the coronavirus affects the respiratory tract, the hand-to-mouth action of e-cigarette is likely to increase the risks associated with the deadly infection.

Are smokers likely to get more severe symptoms if infected?

Smoking any type of tobacco products reduces our lung’s capacity and increases the risksand severity of several respiratory infections and diseases. COVID-19 primarily attacks the lungs. Smokers tend to have impaired lung function,which makes it harder for them to fight coronavirus among otherdiseases.

What are the risks associated with smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco?

Consuming smokeless tobacco involves some hand to mouth contact. Another risk associated with using smokeless tobacco products, like chewing tobacco, is that the virus can be spread when the user spits out excess saliva produced in the chewing process.

What are the tips to protect people from tobacco exposure?

Here are some tips to protect yourself and those around from the risks associated with tobacco consumption:

  • If you smoke, now is a good time to quit completely
  • Do not share cigarettes, waterpipes, and e-cigarettes
  • Raise awareness about the risks of smoking and using alternatives like e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco
  • Prevent others from being exposed to second-hand smoking.
  • Know the importance of washing your hands, social distancing, and not sharing any tobacco products
  • Don’t spit in public places

Given the risks to health that tobacco use causes, WHO recommends quitting tobacco use. To those still unaware of the benefits of quitting, here are some:

  • Quitting helps lungs and heart to function better from the moment you stop
  • Within 20 minutes of quitting, elevated heart rate and blood pressure start dropping
  • After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the bloodstream drops to normal
  • Within 2-12 weeks, circulation and lung function starts improving
  • After 1-9 months, shortness of breath and coughing is likely to decrease

Click here to know more about treatment for lung disorders.

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