Smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as smoking tobacco is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases, compared to non-smokers. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), smoking tobacco is globally the second leading cause of heart diseases and around 12 per cent of cardiovascular deaths occur due to tobacco abuse.
As per WHO, COVID-19 is an infectious disease that mainly attacks the lungs making it harder for the body to fight with coronaviruses and other diseases. Medical experts also suggest that tobacco smokers (cigarettes, waterpipes, bidis, cigars, heated tobacco products) may be more vulnerable to contracting coronavirus, as smoking involves contact of fingers with the lips and increases the possibility of transmission of viruses from hand to mouth.
Smoking hookah (waterpipes), which often involves the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses, could also facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 in local communities. Health experts warn that any type of smoking impacts the entire cardiovascular system.
In tobacco cigarette, there is the combustion which generates temperatures up to 900 degree Celsius. Prolonged exposure to this leads to thickening of blood vessels and making them weak in the long run, which can lead to blood clots and ultimately in stroke or heart diseases.
Tapan Ghose, Director & HOD, Cardiology at Fortis Flt. Lt. Rajan Dhall Hospital, said, "Inhaling the smoke from tobacco builds fatty material -- atheroma -- in the heart of the smoker which then damages the inner lining of arteries and also narrows them further."
WHO states that of the seven million lives that tobacco claims worldwide each year, over 9 lakh people are passive-smokers. Tobacco, whether smoked, swallowed, or chewed poses life hazards. According to a recent Journal of Physiology study, smoking could damage the muscles by reducing the number of blood vessels in leg muscles which may impact the metabolism and activity levels. Moreover, doctors also said that smoking also affects both female and male fertility.
"Women smoking tobacco reduce their chances of conceiving by at least 60% and is also linked to ectopic pregnancy and other tubal factor infertility," said Sagarika Aggarwal, of Indira IVF Hospital, New Delhi.
The experts say that quitting is the best way and discouraged the use of alternatives like e-cigarettes. Other measures like clinical interventions, counselling and behavioural therapies can help people quit tobacco abuse.
Viveka Kumar, Senior Director, Max Heart & Vascular Institute, New Delhi, said that "Nicotine replacement therapy, including nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers etc, has been found to be effective. Combination therapy with drugs like bupropion has been found to be more effective than nicotine replacement alone."
Here's the list of 5 health issued caused by tobacco consumption:
Cardiovascular disease: Cigarette smoking harms almost every organ and is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths. Smokers are at a high risk of cardiovascular diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. Smoking can also cause hindrances in the flow of blood to the brain, resulting in a stroke.
Respiratory diseases: Smoking is also one of the primary causes of respiratory diseases and causes lung disease by damaging the airways and alveoli in the lungs. Smoking can also trigger asthma.
Cancer: Smoking can cause cancer in any body part including - larynx, ureter, bladder, cervix, oesophagus, liver, lung, pancreas, stomach, colon or rectum, throat, tongue and tonsils. It also increases the risk of succumbing to cancer.
COVID-19: According to WHO, smokers are likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19 when compared to non-smokers. The virus attacks the lungs which are already weakened due to smoking tobacco, thereby making it difficult to fight COVID.
Others: Smoking can also affect bone health, weaken immunity, increase the risk for cataract, damage teeth and gums, cause type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and reduce fertility.