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‘Smokers more likely to develop severe disease with Covid-19’

Lahore

May 31, 2020

LAHORE : Dr. Faheem Butt, consultant pulmonologist at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, cautioned the public about unproven claims that tobacco or nicotine could reduce the risk of Covid-19.

In a statement on Saturday, Dr. Faheem Butt said, “This year on the World No Tobacco Day, we should be especially cognizant of the fact that tobacco smoking is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases. A review of studies by public health experts convened by the World Health Organization on 29 April, 2020, found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with Covid-19, compared to non-smokers.”

Moreover, the World Health Organization has also warned that tobacco smokers (cigarettes, waterpipes, bidis, cigars, heated tobacco products) may be more vulnerable to contracting Covid-19, as the act of smoking involves contact of fingers with the lips, which increases the possibility of transmission of viruses from hand to mouth. Generally, smoking waterpipes, also known as shisha or hookah, often involve the sharing of mouth pieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of the Covid-19 virus in communal and social settings.

Covid-19 is an infectious disease that primarily affects 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 non-communicable 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 Covid-19.

Smoking also increases the risk of at least fifteen different kinds of cancers and it is the leading cause of lung cancer. Those who are exposed to second-hand smoke and who use other products containing tobacco are also at high risk of developing lung cancer. Nearly 40% of cancers in adult males seen at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centres can be linked to the use of tobacco. As tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of cancer, every year Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital runs anti-tobacco awareness campaigns to educate the public about the harmful effects of tobacco to help in early diagnosis and prevention of cancer. In previous years, awareness sessions were organized in colleges and universities but due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s awareness campaign “Smoking Breathes Life Into Cancer” is being run extensively on hospital’s social media. “We encourage the youth, in line with the World Health Organization’s appeal this year, to join the fight and become a tobacco free generation,” he added.