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Monday, November 28, 2022

It’s false to claim that smokers are protected from COVID-19

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Panaji: An Anti-tobacco NGO has rubbished the media reports which had claimed that the smokers are better off from being infected by COVID-19.

National Organisation for Tobacco Eradication (NOTE) Secretary Shekhar Salkar, reacting to the media reports emerging from France which claimed that smokers have lesser risk of infecting with COVID-19, said that there is no evidence to back the claim.

“Misleading information on the relationship between smoking and COVID-19 has been reported by the media following the release of French statistics on an open-access website, Qeios,” he said.

“As a result, it has been widely reported that smokers are at lower risk of COVID-19 and by implication nicotine may offer protection from COVID-19,” Salkar said.

He said that  this conclusion is inconsistent with the growing body of evidence that smokers are at greater risk of suffering more severe consequences of COVID-19, has been derived from a citation that is not part of a peer-reviewed study of any kind and does not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

“The French statistic released on Qeios scientifically does not permit any form of credible conclusions on smoking, nicotine and COVID-19,” he added.

Salkar said that the statistic relies on a very small sample size from one French hospital that does not involve a representative sample or account for significant potential confounding factors.

“Contrary to the news coverage of this data, there is conclusive evidence that smoking increases the risk for respiratory infections, weakens the immune system and is a major cause of a number of chronic health conditions, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and diabetes,” he claimed.

Salkar said that in addition, there is growing evidence that vaping can also harm lung health. “These factors put smokers, and in all likelihood vapers, at greater risk when confronted with COVID-19,” he said.

He said that Tobacco use is the world’s leading cause of preventable death, killing more than 8 million people around the world each year. The evidence is clear: tobacco use kills up to half of all lifetime users. Smokers and vapers looking to protect themselves from COVID-19 should make every effort to quit at this time as research has shown that quitting smoking rapidly improves lung function.

While public health experts and governments around the world face the enormous health and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, tobacco companies continue to exploit the pandemic to spread misinformation and promote deadly tobacco products.  In several countries, tobacco companies and their allies have spread false information that tobacco use or vaping will protect users from COVID-19. This information is false and dangerous.

Tobacco companies will stop at nothing to sell more products, even if it means capitalizing on a pandemic. Never has it been more important for the public and policymakers to see the tobacco industry for what it is: an industry of death and disease.

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