GUWAHATI, March 28 - In view of the possible adverse health impact of tobacco in checking the spread of COVID-19, the Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum (CLPF) has asked the Government of Assam to pass an order and ban sale of tobacco products in the State.
For those waiting for a strong stimulus to quit smoking, now is the time, as the information note on COVID-19 prepared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) says that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19.
The information is largely based on the act of smoking, meaning that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips, which increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth.
Moreover, the smokers may also already have lung disease or reduced lung capacity, which would greatly increase risk of serious illnesses. Smoking products such as water pipes often involve the sharing of mouth pieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 in communal and social settings.
Advocate Ajoy Hazarika, secretary, Consumers’ Legal Protection Forum (CLPF), Assam, said that the whole world is fighting against COVID-19 and the states are taking significant preventive measures to curb novel coronavirus impact. Some states like Uttar Pradesh has banned selling of tobacco products, as it can indirectly spread the infection by spitting and smoking by some infected tobacco users.
On March 18, the district administration of Thane, Maharashtra, banned sale of tobacco products along with shutting down of units selling or serving them, to strengthen preventive measures to curb coronavirus.
“We demand of the Govt of Assam to take the same initiative in the State and pass an order in this regard,” he added.
According to Dr Pranita Saikia, Senior Microbiologist, GNRC Hospital, “In the fight against novel coronavirus, we all seem to have missed out one point: COVID-19 is essentially a type of flu, which attacks the lungs. Besides the elderly and children, another group of people who are potential victims of COVID-19 are the smokers. Continuous smoking gradually reduces lung function by depositing carbon particles in the lung tissues and reducing the elasticity. Further, it leads to accumulation of mucous in the lobules. Smoking also shows adverse impact on phagocytosis (the process by which a cell engulfs and destroys viruses or bacteria).
“Novel coronavirus is more contagious, so smokers may be easily infected. Why stop cigarette smoking only for 2-3 months, why not ban cigarette selling completely?” she said.
Conditions that increase oxygen needs or reduce the ability of the body to use it properly will put patients at higher risk of the consequences of bilateral viral pneumonia. The World Health Organization says in its FAQs that smoking is one thing people should not do during the coronavirus outbreak. Since the lungs and the respiratory tract in smokers are already compromised to varied extents, smokers are more prone to be severely infected by SARS CoV-2, which primarily attacks the respiratory system in human beings, and in severe cases, leads to symptoms such as difficulty in breathing.