ISLAMABAD: Smokers are more vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and are at higher risk of contracting the virus because their immune systems are weaker, the head of the Human Development Foundation (HDF) said on Tuesday.

HDF CEO Azhar Saleem issued a statement in which he said that among Chinese patients diagnosed with COVID-19, the odds of disease progression - including to death - was 14 times higher among people with a history of smoking than people who did not smoke.

He said smoking weakens the function of the body’s defence immune cells and the production of antibodies in humans. The damage caused by chemicals present in tobacco to human lungs leaves smokers more susceptible to contracting the disease.

Quoting a World Health Organisation (WHO) study, he said that there is a two to four-fold increased risk for pulmonary and respiratory diseases in smokers compared to non-smokers.

This is also true for people who smoke hookah. In addition, the mouthpiece of the water pipe used in hookahs is often used by multiple people, which can lead to the transmission of viral and bacterial infections.

Past studies have shown that water pipes and mouthpieces have been implicated in an outbreak of pulmonary tuberculosis, the hepatitis-C virus, respiratory viruses and fungal infections.

Mr Saleem said that the coronavirus pandemic is an added cost to the existing health burden incurred by the government. Tobacco consumption, which increases the vulnerability of smokers, is an added liability.

He urged the government to take firm tobacco control measures such as increasing taxes on tobacco products to reduce consumption and the associated health risks, particularly among young people and the elderly.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2020

Opinion

A ventilator for democracy
Updated 15 Jun 2021

A ventilator for democracy

Chomsky has analysed Biden’s foreign policy succinctly, which is essentially not very different from Trump’s in most ways.
State of IKonomy
15 Jun 2021

State of IKonomy

PTI’s economic record is not rosy as some say it is.
Not by words alone
Updated 14 Jun 2021

Not by words alone

A policy shift must be backed by substance otherwise it is a statement of intent not a strategy.

Editorial

15 Jun 2021

Middle East’s plight

THE Middle East is geopolitically and economically perhaps the most important region of the world, home to much of...
Thoughtless eviction
Updated 15 Jun 2021

Thoughtless eviction

Promised compensation of Rs20,000 per month for two years is hardly worth the adversity evicted residents have to undergo.
15 Jun 2021

Cinema ‘industry’?

THE vast gap that often exists between the state’s intentions and its actual efficiency was evident in the third...
Power shortages
Updated 14 Jun 2021

Power shortages

It is high time that governance and structural reforms were introduced in the energy sector.
14 Jun 2021

Suicide in Thar

THARPARKAR is an appropriate case study for examining the factors that lead some people to the desperate, final act...
14 Jun 2021

Water woes

THIS past week saw a discussion on a water management system that, if properly implemented, should go some way...