Smokers at 50% Higher Risk of Developing Severe Disease, Death from Covid-19, Warns WHO Chief

·2-min read

Smokers have up to a 50 per cent higher risk of developing severe disease and death from Covid-19 said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a warning against risk of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses.

The WHO chief made the statement on its ‘Commit to Quit' tobacco campaign to support its Quitting Toolkit, which aims to encourage tobacco users to quit smoking. “Smokers have up to a 50% higher risk of developing severe disease and death from COVID-19, so quitting is best thing smokers can do to lower their risk from this coronavirus, as well as the risk of developing cancers, heart disease and respiratory illnesses," said Dr Tedros

"We urge all countries to play their part by joining the WHO campaign and creating tobacco-free environments that give people the information, support and tools they need to quit and quit for good," he said on Friday.

The Quit Challenge gives daily notifications of tips and encouragement for up to 6 months to help people remain tobacco-free. It is available for free on WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.

Dr Tedros has given special recognition awards for tobacco control to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan for the 2019 national legislation that bans E-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) in India.

The WHO Chief’s comment on covid-19 risks for smokers come nearly a year after the Union Health Ministry had said smokers were likely to be more vulnerable to Covid-19 as smoking increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth.

In its document ‘COVID-19 Pandemic and Tobacco Use in India’, the ministry had said experts have confirmed that smokers were more likely to develop severe symptoms or die from Covid-19, as it primarily attacked the lungs and warned against the use of any such products. Smokers, it warned, were 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 increased the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth.

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