The fact that smoking, in any form, is injurious to health has been known for decades. From simple discoloration of the teeth to lung cancer, the range of medical problems, many of them life-threatening, that are smoking-related continues to increase every day. Smoking is on the decline across the world, but because the habit does not carry the same social stigma as drug or alcohol addiction, it remains a tolerated habit. That does not, however, change the fact that it is a deadly addiction.
The Danger Is Now Greater Than Ever
The world is in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic. No country, race, gender or age group is safe. The disease attacks the lungs and may lead to death. In the case of a smoker, the lungs are already under attack and the health risk is much more. The coronavirus that causes COVID 19 is new and there is still much to learn about it. However, what is known is that the infection enters the body through a protein called the ACE2 Receptor, which resides on the surface of cells throughout the body and especially in the respiratory tract. The virus enters the cells, replicates and spreads through the body. Research shows that the lungs of smokers have an unusually large volume of ACE2 Receptors, making smokers more prone to becoming infected than a person who does not smoke. Additionally, when the infection does occur, the risk of developing complications or death is much higher. A Chinese study reported in the highly respected New England Journal of Medicine found that 12.3% of smokers who become infected will need to be placed on a ventilator or die as compared to only 4.7% of non-smokers. The equally well reputed European Respiratory Journal agrees with these findings and goes on to say that it highlights “the importance of smoking cessation for these individuals and increased surveillance of these risk subgroups for prevention and rapid diagnosis of this potentially deadly disease.” In the U.S.A the Centers for Disease Control, after studying over 122,000 COVID 19 cases concluded that smoking significantly increases the risk of death in COVID 19 patients.
Stopping Smoking Now Will Make A Difference
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that stopping smoking will have an “almost immediate positive impact” on lung and cardiovascular function. The American Lung Association says that within minutes to hours of stopping smoking “chemicals in the bloodstream, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide, decline and coughing, sputum production and wheezing can all improve over the course of days to weeks.” Besides what smoking does to the body, the WHO has identified another very basic risk that smokers face. It says that “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.”
Also Read: “Smoking is injurious to health” – Myths, facts and risks
Smoking is, by itself, an act of war against the respiratory system. COVID 19 is another attack on it. The combined result is like fighting 2 wars at the same time. In such a situation neither battle can be fought successfully and the risk of losing one, or even both, with the resulting danger of severe sickness or death, increases manifold.
Get Help To Stop
Because the onset of the smoking addiction is slow and the symptoms appear gradually and are often easy to overlook or ignore, many smokers are not fully aware of how strong the dependency has grown and how much they rely on smoking to cope with even the slightest degree of stress, anxiety or tension. All these issues come to the fore during a time like this and it is easy to find excuses to continue with the habit. Escaping from the clutches of tobacco is not easy, but the rewards, in terms of health, happiness, quality of life and money no longer being literally burnt up, are immense.
This is the time to stop smoking. Contact your doctor for help in getting over the addiction. He will be able to suggest medications, lifestyle changes and other actions that will make it easier to stop. COVID 19 can and will be defeated. Giving up smoking will give the individual an increased ability to stay healthy.
Smoking is not deadly only for the smoker, it hurts the family and everyone around him.
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