Tobacco increases risk of COVID-19

4 June, 2020 12:00 AM printer

“World No Tobacco Day”was observed on May 31. The harms of tobacco use are well-established. None can put forward anything positive about tobacco consumption, except the users who are unable to give up smoking as it has become an addiction with them.

Tobacco use is linked to diseases of nearly all organs of the body. Tobacco causes 8 million deaths every year from cardiovascular diseases, lung disorders, cancers, diabetes andhypertension.Studies in various countries have found that middle-aged smokers have two to three times the mortality rate of non-smokers of similar age, reducing lifespan by an average of 10 years.

Smoking and e-cigarette use increase the risk and severity of pulmonary infections because of damage to upper airways, lung inflammation, and reduced lung and immune function. Smoking tobacco is also a known risk factor for severe disease and death from many respiratory infections.

As patients of COVID-19 mostly die from lack of Oxygen due to their lungs getting affected by the virus making them unable to breathe, therefore, smoking increases the risk of succumbing to coronavirus. Smokers have 1.91 times the likelihood of severe progression in COVID-19 compared to non-smokers. Smoking is associated with increased severity of the disease and death in hospitalised COVID-19 patients.

As the coronavirus has infected more than 5.5 million people in 188 countries and territories, killing more than 350,000, we cannot ignore any factor that mayincrease the mortality rate associated with COVID-19. So, given the well-established harms associated with tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure, there must be stricter laws enacted and implemented against smoking.

WHO recommends that tobacco users should stop using tobacco. Anti-tobacco campaigners and health experts in Bangladesh have urged the government to increase tax on tobacco products, including cigarette and bidi, in the upcoming national budget for Fiscal Year 2020-21. They hope that it will help discourage use of tobacco products and protect the health of the people.

It is expected that higher taxes on tobacco would raise additional revenues for the government, of about Tk10,000 crore directly and an additional Tk1,000 crore from surcharges. The additional revenues generated may help the government recover losses caused by the coronavirus pandemicand also help bear coronavirus related medical expenses and implement the stimulus packages.