By Ajita Rijal
Kathmandu, July 25: The government has lifted the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, with some restrictions in place, but still the threat is there. As the threat of COVID-19 continues to rise, doctors have suggested everybody to exercise the precautionary measures and the smokers to quit at the earliest to keep the COVID-19 at bay.
“As smoking and chewing tobacco harms the immune system and our ability to fight off infections. I strongly suggest smokers to quit smoking to fight this pandemic,” said Dr. Bishnu Paudel, a cancer specialist. Giving up smoking will help improve the health of the heart and lung and reduce the chances of developing cancer as well as severity if infected by the COVID-19. It is better time to quit smoking, added Dr. Paudel. According to physicians, smoking tobacco reduces the functioning capacity of the lungs and increases the risk of many respiratory infections and diseases. The COVID-19 is an infectious disease that mainly attacks the lungs causing difficulty in breathing, smoking impairs the lungs’ function making it difficult for the body to fight off the coronavirus, they added.
As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with the COVID-19, compared to the non-smokers. According to Dr. Kedar Narshing KC, a TB and Chest specialist, tobacco is a risk factor for many non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes among other complications.If people are having these problems, they are at a higher risk of developing severe illness when affected by the COVID-19, added Dr. KC. Smokers may be more vulnerable to contracting the COVID-19, as there is frequent contact of the fingers with the lips while smoking, which increases the possibility of transmission of the virus, said Dr. Paudel. “If you smoke, it’s not only you to be affected but also people around you,” said Dr. Paudel, adding that it was also high time to protect others from the harms of passive smoking. It’s never too late to quit smoking habit, as we never know when this COVID-19 will fade away, said Dr. KC and suggested all to quit smoking to keep all the NCDs and the COVID-19 at bay.
Dr. KC said the pandemic was an additional motivation to quit smoking for keeping one’s own lungs healthy, which would help fight off the COVID-19 if they get infected. According to the latest survey carried out by Nepal Health Research Council (2019), around 28.9 per cent adults (aged 15-69 years) use either smoked or smokeless tobacco products.
Tobacco use is high among the men in Nepal, with nearly 50 per cent of men (aged 15-69 years) using tobacco (smoke and smokeless). According to a report, one-third of the population at home, and two out of five at the workplace, are exposed to secondhand smoke.