Monday, August 3, 2020

Shun tobacco products to prevent COVID-19: MoHFW

Port Blair, July 29: The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has again warned against use of any tobacco products to prevent getting infected from novel Coronavirus. The latest advisory has been issued in concurrence with the WHO statement on tobacco use and COVID-19 issued on 11 May 2020, which can be accessed at https:// www. /news-room/detail/11-05-2020-who-statementtobacco-use-and-covid-19. To quit tobacco, citizens have been advised to call the toll free Quitline 1800-11-2356 or/and also avail the services of mCessation through behavioural change text messages by sending a missed call on the mCessation number 011-22901701 or registering at, the advisory said.

There have been recent reports in the media quoting studies conducted in France suggesting the possibility of link between tobacco or nicotine in the prevention or treatment of COVID19. The findings of these studies are inconsistent with the broader existing evidence that tobacco use impacts the lungs and other organs, lowers the immunity and makes people vulnerable to COVID-19. The French studies used limited data sets and the findings are inconclusive. Researchers of these studies do acknowledge the limitation in the study that hospitals were probably not recording patients' smoking status properly as they were too busy treating patients, the advisory said. On benefits of quitting smoking, the Ministry said that the carbon monoxide level in the bloodstream drops to normal within 12 hours of quitting. "Within 2-12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases. After 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease."

"Evidence from countries reporting COVID-19 related fatalities has highlighted that the people with pre-existing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are more susceptible to becoming severely ill with COVID-19. Tobacco, being one of the causes behind these NCDs, indirectly puts the tobacco users or/and smokers at risk of being affected by COVID-19. Moreover, tobacco use poses a significant risk by accelerating the transmission of COVID-19 because the virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Chewing tobacco products (Khaini, Gutkha, Paan, Zarda) increases the urge to spit. Spitting in public places increases health risks especially those of spreading the infectious and contagious diseases like, COVID19, tuberculosis, swine flu, encephalitis, etc.

Smoking impairs lung function, thereby reducing the immunity and making it harder for the body to fight off various diseases. Smoking, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, pan masala and the like products use can increase risk and severity of pulmonary infections because of damage to upper airways and a decrease in pulmonary immune function. Smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth. Experts have confirmed that smokers are more likely to develop severe symptoms or die from COVID-19, as it primarily attacks the lungs. Further smoking products such as water pipes or hookah often involve the sharing of mouth-pieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 in communal and social settings, the advisory.

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