Coronavirus has already affected 188 countries and is continuing to wreak havoc globally. Doctors have advised smokers to stay indoors. Smoking tobacco can cause several respiratory diseases including lung cancer. The WHO has also made it amply clear that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 and to severe symptoms in case they contract the infection.
May 31 is observed as the World No Tobacco Day every year. Last year's focus of the International No Tobacco Day was on "tobacco and lung health". Due to coronavirus pandemic, the emphasis on leaving smoking will be even higher. Here's how coronavirus can impact smokers, according to researchers:
Smoking kills the preventive shield of the airway
Out of 1,099 patients who were infected with novel coronavirus and were admitted into ICU, 25.5% were smokers, according to a Chinese study published in February 2020. Doctors and scientists believe that smokers were getting severe respiratory symptoms due to absence of the preventive shield or cilia in their airway. Cilia are tiny hair-like structures present in airway lining that help in keeping the airway clean by removing mucous and infectious agents before an infections affects the lungs.
Smoking increases the levels of COVID-19 receptors in the body
COVID-19 virus makes its way into the human body by attaching itself to the ACE2 receptors present in high quantity on the surface of organs like lungs, heart and the entire gut lining. According to a European Respiratory Journal report, smoking can increase the levels of ACE2 receptors in the body. With the increased levels of ACE2 receptors and absence of cilia, the virus can easily invade the body.
Shisha or hookah smokers are at a higher risk
According to a World Health Organization QnA dated May 27,2020, those who smoke shisha or hookah are more vulnerable than other smokers as it often involves the sharing of mouth pieces and hoses which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 virus in communal and social settings.
People who use smokeless tobacco aren't safe either
According to WHO, "Using smokeless tobacco often involves some hand to mouth contact." It further stated in its QnA that another big risk associated with using smokeless tobacco products is that the virus is likely to be spread when the consumer spits out the excess saliva produced during chewing.