By Moses Nyirongo and Chimwemwe Ngoma
It is nearly eight months since the first case of COVID-19 diseases was identified, coronavirus is continuing to spread across the world with more than 20 million confirmed cases.
Whilst studies are underway to establish the association between current smoking, nicotine use and severe disease in COVID-19 patients, here is our little analysis from what is already widely understood.
It is well known by now that corona virus can cause severe diseases such as acute respiratory syndrome. It is also a well-established fact that smoking tobacco is a known risk factor for severe diseases and deaths from many respiratory infections.
Public Health England’s guidance states that there is strong evidence that smoking tobacco is generally associated with an increased risk of developing respiratory viral infections. It is further mentioned that smoking harms the immune system, thereby, reducing one’s ability to fight infection.
Diminished immune response and reduced ability to repair the damaged epithelium puts smokers at a higher risk of developing severe disease or even death. Furthermore, smokers have a reduced mocociliary clearance (R. Xavier et al, 2013), this condition is likely to allow the virus to spread to the gas exchange units of the lungs more easily.
People who are struggling with the habit of smoking should therefore be helped to quit smoking or switch to scientifically proven less harmful means of consuming nicotine. Reputable public health institutions like the Public Health England maintains that an electronic cigarette is 95% safer as compared to combustible cigarettes.
In one of his addresses to the nation, the Malawi’s state president, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera clearly pointed out that current trends in Covid-19 pandemic shows that the disease is likely not to go away any time soon, the best we can do is to develop practical survival mechanisms.
It is therefore important to protect everyone and target the vulnerable population amongst us including people struggling with smoking behavior and give them feasible solutions on how they can survive this pandemic. For smokers, scientifically proven safer nicotine products offer a more realistic get away to smoking.
We are not safe until everyone is safe.