Quitting smoking could protect against Covid-19: Medical experts

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Ras Al Khaimah - The Covid-19 virus can easily invade a smoker’s lung tissue because it has been made vulnerable by cigaratte smoke


Nandini Sircar

Published: Sat 11 Sep 2021, 7:25 PM

Smokers are more likely to become severely ill as a result of Covid-19 infection, but experts say that quitting can provide instant benefits. In just 20 minutes, blood pressure drops and within eight hours, oxygen absorption increases.

A group of medical experts from the UAE and India explained the harmful effects of smoking during a webinar on Saturday. They also noted that many people turned to cigarettes in response to stress during the pandemic.

According to the World Health Organisation, smoking impairs lung function, making it harder for the body to fight off coronavirus and other respiratory diseases. In addition, emerging data suggests that the use of e-cigarettes is linked to a fivefold increased likelihood for a positive Covid-19 diagnosis.

“Smokers tend to touch their face and mouth more often, which increases their susceptibility,” said Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director at RAK Hospital and founding member of Arise, UAE.

The Covid-19 virus, which primarily affects the respiratory tract, can easily invade a smoker’s lung tissue because it has been made vulnerable by cigaratte smoke, said Professor Adrian Kennedy, chief wellness officer at RAK Hospital.

Dr Sai Praveen Haranath, pulmonologist at Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad, India, said: “If you’re a smoker, your immune system can be affected, your immunity to protect against infections is minimised, and there is an increased chance of pneumonia and influenza.”

He added that smokers may also lose about 100ml of oxygen in a year, which leads to a loss of lung capacity.

“Most of us lose about 30ml a year ... but if you quit tobacco, you may lose a little less,” Dr Praveen said. “When you smoke after Covid, you decrease the amount of oxygen entering your lungs because you already have impaired lung capacity. Such people often experience low oxygen delivery, less endurance.”

Nearly 4.5 million individuals have died as a result of coronavirus, and individuals who smoked accounted for nearly 25 per cent of those deaths, according to statistics.

However, quitting isn’t as easy as it seems. Apart from nicotine — which is highly addictive — cigarettes also contain a heady cocktail of trace chemicals, including acids, alcohol, carbon monoxide and cyanide, among others.

Dr Savita Date, a visiting consultant at RAK Hospital who specialises in clinical psychology and health and wellness, said: “The journey begins with your mouth, moves towards your lungs and thereafter, it moves forward to make holes in your brain."

"The reason for this addiction is because of the impact that cigarette smoking has on the brain. If the damage were up to the lungs it would be one major area that would require to be treated. But the reason it goes beyond control is because it moves way further and creates an impact in your brain.”

The impact, she added, is so severe that about 50 per cent of people who have recovered from a heart attack return to smoking.


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