The World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Friday warned that people who smoke tobacco have up to 50 per cent higher risk of developing serious illnesses and dying due to Covid-19.
In a statement on WHO’s ‘Commit to Quit’ tobacco campaign, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said smokers can develop cancer, heart diseases and respiratory illnesses from the coronavirus.
“Smokers have up to a 50 per cent 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,” Dr Tedros said.
“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 added.
To help people quit smoking tobacco and remain tobacco free, the ‘Quit Challenge’ gives them tips and encouragement notifications for six months on WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger and WeChat.
Indian Health Minister awarded
Meanwhile, Union Health Minister of India Harsh Vardhan received special recognition awards from the WHO chief for tobacco control due to the 2019 national legislation of banning e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs) in the country.
Dr Tedros’s comment about smokers being at higher risk from Covid-19 has come nearly a year after India’s health ministry had made a similar observation. It had said that smokers were more vulnerable from SARS-CoV-2 as smoking enhanced the chances of transmitting the virus from hand to mouth.
The health ministry, in its document ‘Covid-19 Pandemic and Tobacco Use in India’, had said experts had confirmed that smokers stood at greater risk to develop severe symptoms or die from Covid-19, as the virus initially impacts the human lungs. It had warned against the use of any such products.