Smoking and COVID-19

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Smoking and COVID-19


Sunday, June 28, 2020

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COVID-19 is at its strongest when our immune system is weak.

It is now six months into the year and COVID-19 has snuffed out the lives of almost 500,000 people. Another killer — smoking, specifically tobacco use — extinguishes seven million lives per year. Combined, COVID-19 and tobacco use are two potential killers you do not want to be dealing with at once.

Since smoking compromises the immune system, the body would be in an especially vulnerable state were one to contract the novel coronavirus.

Double damage

“Smoking cigarettes... has been scientifically proven to harm nearly every organ in the body and to increase morbidity and mortality,” notes The Tobacco Atlas.

Smoking, it is well known, occasions a host of non-communicable diseases, of which cancer, heart disease, and lung ailments are topmost.

Similarly, fevers, coughs, shortness of breath, fatigue, chills, body aches and headaches, sore throat along with a loss of taste and smell, as well as nausea and diarrhoea are indicators that key body members, under attack by the novel coronavirus, have been compromised.

Both in the system can only mean double trouble.

Dual killers

Despite warnings on the very cigarette boxes that smoking kills, millions continue to do so. Maybe because negative effects are not immediately felt, many ignore the warnings. Clearly, too, there are withdrawal symptoms users suffer if their desire for nicotine is not met.

The World Health Organization (WHO) cites smoking as a major cause of death from communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis. Naturally, chances of surviving COVID-19 are drastically reduced with another killer eating away at your body.

Like addicts and adventurers, who ignore warning signs on cigarette boxes, there are those among us with a carefree approach to coronavirus-related directives. Be warned, the numbers show that these are cold killers.

Second-hand smoke & novel coronavirus transmission

It is especially sad that an alarming number of non-tobacco users suffer the lethal effects of second-hand smoke. This, in some way, compares to individuals who, though careful, contract the novel coronavirus because of the carelessness of others.

So while tobacco users are going down, they are bringing others down with them — a reality that should strengthen our resolve to stay clear of people who smoke in our presence, just as much as we take extra precautions to protect ourselves from others through social distancing, mask-wearing, and matters of hygiene amid the coronavorus outbreak.

Lung lovers

Smoking and COVID-19 have the lungs — the body's critical oxygen sacs — as prime targets. While smoking often leads to lung cancer and lung-related ailments, COVID-19 can result in lung complications, for example, pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

COVID-19 causes the lungs and airways to swell and become inflamed. With the swelling worsening, the lungs become filled with fluid and mucus which account for breathing problems or shortness of breath.

Now the Saharan dust

Just when we think that it can't get worse for the smoker or second-hand smoker, comes the migratory dust that has blanketed huge sections of the world. This is no consolation for smokers or those who have contracted the virus, as this new phenomenon will, again, like smoking and COVID-19, affect or seek to clog the lungs.

We have to dodge too many potentially deadly and naturally occurring phenomena such as the coronavirus and the Saharan dust to give up our lives to smoking just like that. If smoking is not in your habit, now is not the time to try it; if it is, try to kick it.

Warrick Lattibeaudiere (PhD), a minister of religion for the past 22 years, lectures full-time in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Jamaica.

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