Toudip, a graduate of Computer Science and Engineering, has a habit of smoking. His family knows about his smoking habit.
He foresaw the current lockdown situation and bought around 6-7 packs of cigarettes, enough to last him ten to twelve days. His parents do not allow him to go out now, but he is not too bothered if the shops are closed.
Mithu Kar, a youth in his late 20s, hides his habit from his family. After going without smoking for a few days the craving intensified and he tried to go out, but his parents would not let him.
Even then he sneaked out to buy cigarettes, but was accosted by some policemen who were enforcing the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus.
He came back home disappointed at having failed his mission. He had not smoked for six days.
It is proven that smoking affects the human body's cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Alarmingly, COVID-19 also harms those parts of the body.
Information from China – the origin of COVID-19 – shows that people with cardiovascular and respiratory conditions due to tobacco use or otherwise, possess a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.
Research on 55,924 laboratory-confirmed cases in China shows that the crude fatality ratio for COVID-19 patients is much higher among those with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, chronic respiratory diseases or cancer, than those with no pre-existing chronic medical conditions.
Moreover, smokers may also already have lung diseases such as lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and tuberculosis, or reduced lung capacity which would significantly increase the risk of serious illness.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in its FAQ on the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) said, "Smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth."
"Smoking products such as water pipes often involve the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 in communal and social settings."
Thus, giving up smoking might reduce the risk of viral transmission and spread of coronavirus.
According to WHO, 7 million people die through the use of tobacco every year globally. Among them around 0.9 million non-smokers are victims of passive smoking.
In Bangladesh, according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, Bangladesh 2017 – conducted by Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) under the obligation of WHO ─ around 35.3 percent of adults consume tobacco in a smoked or smokeless form. Around 18 percent of adults smoke tobacco and 14 percent smoke cigarettes.
However, the passive smoking rate is higher: 44 percent of adults are exposed to tobacco smoke in the public transportation system, 42.7 percent at their workplace, and 39 percent at home.
This would be a great opportunity at this time to discontinue or quit the use of tobacco to limit the harm caused by COVID-19. If individuals can successfully quit smoking, the benefits are well worth it, not only in the current situation but also in the long run.
Stay home, stay safe, and keep trying to quit smoking.