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Smoking during the Pandemic: Everything You Need to Know

It is no surprise that consumption of tobacco poses a series of serious hazards to health. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of otherwise preventable cases of death and other comorbid diseases.

Cigarettes come packed with various addictive toxins such as nicotine, tar and carbon monoxide which contain several severe irritants and high levels of carcinogenic properties. Each time nicotine enters your bloodstream, it constricts the blood vessels, leading to a resultant shoot in blood pressure. This in turn, affects the functionality of every organ in your body and emanates varying degrees of health complications.

Smoking tobacco is harmful across all age-groups and increases the risk of cancer in the oral cavity, lungs, oesophagus, stomach, cervix and other organs. It also induces severe complications with the cardiovascular system leading to concerns such as coronary heart disease of pulmonary complications. Tobacco degrades what is considered good cholesterol, thereby enabling the risk of blood clots in the heart. It is also one of the leading causes of a cerebral attack or a mind stroke.

Heart Health and Smoking

Smoking cigarettes is also extremely detrimental to reproductive health and fertility among males and females, alike. Smoking also has direct effects on the central nervous system, thereby potentially altering one’s brain chemistry in the long run. While chemicals in tobacco smoke serve as stimulants in short amounts, they also bear a number of properties that impact one’s mental health and ability such as decision making abilities and cognition. 

Overall, smoking leads to inflammation in the body as the chemicals in the cigarette injure body cell units. Once these chemicals enter the body, they mix with the oxygen present and contaminate it. This leads to a spike in oxidative stress-the phenomenon that occurs as a result of the contact between the chemicals and the oxygen. Evidence suggests that bodily inflammation and oxidative stress increase the risk of chronic illnesses. Diabetes is among the most common diseases that inflict smokers. Smokers have a 40 percent higher risk of afflicting diabetes than do non-smokers. Therefore, quitting cigarettes makes up for a large chunk of diabetic care.

Diseases caused by Smoking

With the high and continual prevalence of the coronavirus pandemic throughout the world, it is imperative to reduce/terminate smoke intake, directly or as secondhand smoke. Although the body of research on COVID-19 and tobacco usages is still evolving, current research indicates a possible association between smoking and elevated severity of coronavirus symptomatology. 

Here are a few things you need to know about smoking in the pandemic:

Is my risk of contracting COVID-19 higher than that of a non-smoker?
According to WHO, there are no concrete peer reviewed articles that evaluate the association between contracting SARS-CoV 2 infection associated with smokers. However, by virtue of the very act of smoking involves higher contact with lips and hands, and even passing around shared cigarettes. This may increase the chance of transmitting COVID-19 if the smoker has, at any point, come in contact with an infected person or contaminated surfaces.

If infected, are my symptoms likely to be more severe as compared to a non-smoker?
Smoking any form of tobacco severely affects the lungs, leading to respiratory diseases and complications. Since coronavirus is an infectious strain that directly impacts the lungs, impaired lung function due to smoking affects your ability to fight and thereby ward off the virus. Therefore, if infected, it is highly likely that a smoker may experience worse symptoms as compared to a non-smoker. That said, there are other factors such as age and other morbid health complications that determine the trajectory of the symptomology one experiences. 

Smoking and Lung Cancer

Are e-cigarettes a safer alternative?
No. Evidence maintains that e-cigarette systems, both nicotine and non-nicotine delivery, are harmful to health. E-cigarette emissions are typically toxic for users and non-users, alike. Much like regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes impact cardiovascular and respiratory health, leading to a number of health risks including sudden death. 

COVID-19 affects the respiratory tract. Since e-cigarettes bear equally alarming suppressions to bodily functions and immunity as cigarettes do, its usage may predispose users to severe side-effects of the coronavirus disease, if infected. Therefore, they are not effective alternatives or cigarette cessation aids. 

What are the risks involved with smokeless tobacco? 
Much like any form of smoking, smokeless tobacco also has ill-effects to the body. Additionally, it also has hand-to-mouth contact. According to WHO, the increase of transmitted coronavirus is extremely high due to the spitting action involved while using chewing tobacco. 

Tips to Quit Smoking:
The number of smokers are alarmingly high despite knowing the risks associated with it. However, there are a few tips that might help you quit smoking and choose a better life for your mind and body:

  • Find your ‘why’

While the overarching reason to quit smoking is seemingly universal, it is very important to find your own motivation to cease. It might be protecting your child or loved ones from second hand smoke or even choosing a fitter lifestyle or approach. 

  • Avoid being in situations that trigger your need to smoke

Smoking is a largely behavioural function that your body gets acclimated to. You might associate the act of smoking with certain people or environments. For instance alcohol intake or social situations might trigger your need to reach for a cigarette. Steering clear from such situations at least temporarily, really helps you with your cravings. 

  • Don’t shy away from help

Talking to your close ones or your therapist might be a very effective tool in helping you stick to your decision about quitting. Your family and friends will help you stay motivated and encourage you to head in the chosen direction. Talking to them may also help you find the right doctor or best hospitals whose assistance you will need on your new journey.. Your therapist will definitely be able to suggest certain proven techniques to help you stay strong-willed in your journey to quit. Speaking to a doctor will also help you choose the right plan for you to quit smoking since one size does not fit all. 

  • Try a nicotine replacement treatment

When you stop smoking, nicotine withdrawal may give you headaches, affect your mood, or sap your energy. The craving for “just one drag” is tough. Nicotine replacement therapy can curb these urges. Studies show that nicotine gum, lozenges, and patches improve your chances of success when you’re also in a quit-smoking program. 

  • Lastly, keep trying again and again!

Quitting smoking in general is always a brighter option. Your bodily states begin to stabilize within just a few hours into cutting out smoke supply. This decision to quit smoking is especially crucial during the pandemic for you and others around you. In the long run, quitting cigarettes may also result in stroke prevention, fewer cardiovascular complications and a holistically better functioning system. Moreover, quitting smoking reduces the contact between fingers and lips. Due to the immediate benefits of quitting smoking, it is possible that those who opt out of smoking better manage any coronavirus symptoms, if infected. 

Main Source: WHO