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Smokers are more likely to develop severe coronavirus complications

A pulmonologist at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre has warned the public about unproven claims that tobacco or nicotine could reduce the risk of coronavirus.

“We should be especially cognisant of the fact that tobacco smoking is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases,” Dr Faheem Butt said. “A review of studies by public health experts convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on April 29 2020, found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19, compared to non-smokers.”

Moreover, WHO 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 water pipes, also known as shisha or hookah, often involve the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of the coronavirus virus in communal and social settings.

Coronavirus 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.

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