Cancer cures smoking!

The World Health Organisation has stated that smokers are more vulnerable to COVID-19 as well as to severe symptoms if they contract the infection compared to non-smokers. The widespread view in the scientific community is that smoking is harmful for Coronavirus patients.

"A recent research article reviewed databases to look at the prevalence of smoking as well as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) in COVID-19 patients. It was found that current smokers were 1.45 times more likely to have severe complications compared to former smokers and people who left smoking. Also, critically ill patients with COPD had a 63% risk of severe disease and a 60% risk of mortality, while critically ill patients without COPD had only a 33.4% risk of severe disease and 55% risk of mortality," said Dr Abhishek Shankar, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Radiation Oncology, at Lady Hardinge Medical College and SSK Hospital, New Delhi.

He added, "Smokers are getting severe respiratory symptoms due to the absence of cilia in their airway. Tobacco smoke damages the tiny air sacs in the lungs where oxygen enters the blood and slows down the hair's lining through the body's air passages that gently waft along mucus. Smokers are affected more severely by colds and flu and years of smoking can lead to a type of lung failure known as emphysema, which is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The cilia helps in keeping the airway clean by removing the mucous and infectious agents before an infection acquires the lungs. The inhaled chemicals of cigarettes kill the cilia in due time. This makes them prone to new respiratory infections such as COVID-19. The absence of cilia can also lead to inflammation in the airway."

Fingers of smokers are frequently in contact with their lips, thus increasing the likelihood of the virus being transmitted from their hands. They may also already have lung problems and reduced breathing capacity, which could impact their ability to battle Coronavirus.

Dr Shankar explained, "COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function that makes it harder for the body to fight off Coronavirus and other diseases. Tobacco is also a major risk factor, as it gives entry to non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes, which put people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when affected by the virus."

'WHO' is constantly evaluating new research, including research that examines the link between tobacco and nicotine use. Researchers want people to be cautious about amplifying unproven claims that tobacco or nicotine could reduce the risk of the virus.

Speaking on nicotine replacement therapies, he said, "Therapies such as gum and patches are designed to help smokers quit tobacco. 'WHO' recommends smokers to take immediate steps to quit by using proven methods such as toll-free quit lines, mobile text-messaging programmes and nicotine replacement therapies. Within 20 minutes of quitting, elevated heart rate and blood pressure drop. After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the bloodstream drops to normal. Within twelve weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases. After nine months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease."

Quitting the habit of smoking also rapidly reduces people's risk of other health problems, such as heart attacks and strokes. "Much of the global focus is on tobacco prevention, while cessation focuses around non-infective respiratory, cardiovascular and cancer related deaths and much of the e-cigarette promotional rhetoric revolves around potentially saving billions of lives that might otherwise be lost due to these non-infective outcomes. The risk of infectious complications is, however, the predominant focus and concern in low-income and middle-income countries, particularly during pandemics," said Dr Abhishek.

The battle against tobacco use should continue, by assisting smokers to successfully and permanently quit. Avoiding COVID-19 now, but having lung cancer or COPD later on is not a desired outcome.

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