Are smokers at greater risk of contracting COVID-19?

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BY SIDDHI JAIN
New Delhi, April 16 (IANS)
Are smokers, in particular, at any higher risk of getting infected? Health experts say yes.
Although the novel Coronavirus can infect anyone, evidence suggests that certain groups – like older adults and those with underlying medical conditions – are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.
Cases from Wuhan, China where COVID-19 originated, shows that people who were diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases due to tobacco use were at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.
“Chain-smokers likely to be vulnerable to Covid-19 due to enzyme ACE2. A study by Chinese doctors on 99 patients affected by COVID-19 found that chain-smokers were more at risk of dying,” Dr Nilesh Shah, Group President, Metropolis Healthcare Ltd, Mumbai told IANSlife.
We know at least one person in our lives who is a chain-smoker, and health experts agree that people who have tobacco related diseases or have pre-existing chronic medical conditions could be among the more susceptible categories. Behavioural factors related to smoking too lead to higher likelihood of getting COVID-19 infection.
According to World Health Organization, smoking can increase risk due to behavioral factors because smokers constantly put their fingers to their lips when holding a cigarette, thereby transporting germs from their hands to their mouths. Transmitting the virus from the hands to the mouth is the most common way of getting the disease. Further, smokers may also share cigarettes which again increases the chances of spreading germs”, says Dr Shah.
You will not be surprised to know that smokers are also likely to have diminished lung capacity, and long-term smokers are highly likely to have lung damage. All these factors place them in higher-risk groups.
“Smokers may already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity which greatly increases the risk of serious illness. Because smoking helps in producing mucus in the lungs, which literally traps the virus inside and increases the chance of infection and playing with your breath,” he adds.
With or without the existence of COVID-19, we know for a fact that smoking reduces one’s life and affects the immune system, which as of now is the most important thing to fight the virus.
“As a doctor, I can tell you that for fighting any disease, your immunity matters, and you must know – smoking is doing nothing but weakening it. Currently, we don’t have conclusive data to furnish that if in India too, smokers are more likely to fall prey as the pandemic is still underway. Perhaps, we will learn more about it once we have more data to analyze and draw conclusions. For now, we recommend to curtail as much smoking as possible,” he warns.
In fact, it would be best if one can make a strong will to abstain from smoking till the pandemic is controlled and finally behind us.

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