By Analou De Vera
People who smoke should rethink their smoking habits as the Department of Health (DOH) warned that they are more prone to contracting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Citing the World Health Organization (WHO), Special Assistant to the Health Secretary Dr. Beverly Ho said that smokers–whose immune systems are already compromised–are likely to be more susceptible to the dreaded disease.
“Base sa ating datos [Based on our data], 42 percent of adult Filipino men are smokers and about a million are vapers. Gusto po natin silang paalalahanan na mas vulnerable po sila sa COVID-19 kaysa sa ibang tao [We want to remind them that they are more vulnerable to COVID-19 compared to other people],” said Ho.
Ho said that smoking is known to weaken the immune system making it less able to respond to infections.
“According to the WHO, smokers contract more respiratory ailments including colds which also belong to the coronavirus family,” she said.
“Furthermore, WHO also said that the act of smoking means that the fingers and possibly contaminated cigarettes are in contact with lips—which increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth, making the smokers more vulnerable to COVID-19,” she added.
Citing a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, the DOH said that over 25 percent of COVID-19 patients in China, “who needed mechanical ventilation and admission to an intensive care unit, or died,” were smokers.
“Dahil po rito, pinapaki-usapan po namin ang ating mga smokers na huminto sa paninigarilyo para na po sa inyong kapakanan at kalusugan,” said Ho.
[Due to this, we urge smokers to quit smoking for the sake of your health and well-being.]
“Pinapa-alalahanan din po namin ang general public na umiiwas sa second-hand smoke mula sa vape or sa regular cigarettes,” she added.
[We also advise the general public to avoid second-hand smoke from vape or regular cigarettes.]
An ‘opportunity’ to quit
The COVID-19 pandemic is an “opportune time” for smokers and vapers to think about quitting, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) said.
“The World Health Organization clearly states that smoking and vaping are undoubtedly harmful,” said SEATCA Executive Director Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo in a statement.
“Given the available evidence about COVID-19, people who smoke or vape should quit now to reduce their risk of infection and severe lung damage,” he added.
The SEATCA said that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, “attacks the lungs, and medical experts agree that weakened lungs and immune systems predispose to higher risk of severe respiratory illness caused by COVID-19.”