By Mary Hearty

Evidence strongly shows that tobacco users are up to 50% more likely to suffer worse outcomes from COVID-19 disease compared to others who do not smoke. This is because tobacco results in conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease and lung cancer among others which make people more vulnerable to COVID-19 disease.

Dr Hebe Gouda, an Epidemiologist and Associate Professor at the School of Public Health in Queensland University, Australia, made this statement during the WHO ‘Science in 5’ interview on Tobacco and COVID-19.

“That means that smokers are more likely to have worse symptoms, get hospitalized, be admitted into intensive care units and require help with breathing through ventilators. Ultimately, smokers are more likely to die from COVID-19 disease than someone who has never smoked,” Dr Gouda explained.

Nevertheless, she was concerned that the tobacco industry and other industries that are involved in the manufacturing and marketing of e-cigarettes, for example, were very active during the pandemic and continue to be so.

For instance during the lockdown, Dr. Gouda stated that “they ensured that consumers had continuous access to these harmful products through contactless delivery or curbside drop-offs.”

She further noted that what is particularly concerning about those forms of access is that those who are under age, who would normally not have access to these products, access could be made potentially easier through this contactless delivery system.

Dr. Gouda outlined several benefits which come with quitting smoking including improved heart rate and blood pressure within 20 minutes of smoking the last cigarette.

“Within 12 hours, the carbon monoxide levels in your blood will have reduced to normal. Within two to 12 weeks, you can expect your lung function and circulation to have improved. And in fact, within one to four years of quitting, your risk of dying is about half that of a current smoker,” she advised, emphasizing that the best time to quit is now.