LAHORE: A top pulmonologist at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre has cautioned the public about unproven claims that tobacco or nicotine could reduce the risk of coronavirus.
“We should be especially cognisant of the fact that tobacco smoking is a known risk factor for many respiratory infections and increases the severity of respiratory diseases,” Dr Faheem Butt said. “A review of studies by public health experts convened by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on April 29 2020, found that smokers are more likely to develop severe disease with COVID-19, compared to non-smokers.”
Moreover, WHO has also warned that tobacco smokers (cigarettes, waterpipes, bidis, cigars, heated tobacco products) may be more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, as the act of smoking involves contact of fingers with the lips, which increases the possibility of transmission of viruses from hand to mouth.
Generally, smoking water pipes, also known as shisha or hookah, often involve the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of the coronavirus virus in communal and social settings.
Coronavirus is an infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronavirus and other diseases. Tobacco is also a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by COVID-19.
Smoking also increases the risk of at least 15 different kinds of cancers and it is the leading cause of lung cancer. Those who are exposed to second-hand smoke and who use other products containing tobacco are also at high risk of developing lung cancer.
Nearly 40% of cancers in adult males seen at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centres can be linked to the use of tobacco. As tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of cancer, every year Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital runs anti-tobacco awareness campaigns to educate the public about the harmful effects of tobacco to help in early diagnosis and prevention of cancer.
In previous years, awareness sessions were organised in colleges and universities but due to the ongoing pandemic, this year’s awareness campaign “Smoking Breathes Life Into Cancer” is being run extensively on hospital’s social media. “We encourage the youth, in line with the World Health Organisation’s appeal this year, to join the fight and become a tobacco-free generation,” he added.