Tobacco Use Increases Chances Of COVID-19 Infection, Warns India’s Health Ministry

New Delhi: In a warning to the smokers, the Union Health Ministry has said the use of tobacco products can increase severity of respiratory infections and make people susceptible to coronavirus.

In its document ‘COVID-19 Pandemic and Tobacco Use in India’, the ministry quoted the experts to say that smokers are more likely to develop severe symptoms or die of COVID-19 as it primarily attacks the lungs.

While smoking, the fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) come in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth. Besides, use of water pipes or hookah by multiple persons enhances the possibility of the transmission of the virus, the ministry said.

Since tobacco use is a major factor for the four main Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) of cardiovascular ailment, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes, it can put people with these conditions at higher risk of COVID-19 infection. NCDs are estimated to account for 63 per cent of all deaths in India.

Besides, the chemicals in tobacco used for smoking suppress different types of immune cells that work for immune responses. “Smoking, e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, pan masala and similar products can increase risk and severity of pulmonary infections because of damage to upper airways and a decrease in pulmonary immune function,” the ministry said.

Chewing tobacco products like khaini, gutkha, paan and zarda lead to spitting which increases health risks especially of diseases like COVID-19, tuberculosis, swine flu and encephalitis. “The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare warns against the use of any tobacco products,” the ministry said.

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