As Nigeria battles to contain the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has warned that smokers are at higher risk of developing fatal complications from contracting the virus.
The group, in a statement issued by its head, Media and Campaigns, Philip Jakpor, said that while there is currently no conclusive evidence that people who smoke tobacco are at higher risk of being infected with the virus, researchers have confirmed that smokers are at greater risk of other respiratory infections.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has similarly warned that because smoking involves repeated hand-to-face motions, it creates a route of potential viral transmission, like the current COVID 19.
In view of the growing number of donors seeking to support government efforts to combat the spread of the virus, ERA/FoEN cautioned government at all levels from receiving donations from tobacco companies, saying such gestures are hypocritical of an industry whose products are directly and indirectly fueling the pandemic.
According to the group, the largest study investigating the link between COVID-19 and smoking published till date looked at clinical outcomes from 1,099 patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection from 532 hospitals across China.
The research discovered that 12.4 per cent of current smokers either died, were admitted to an intensive care unit or required mechanical ventilation, compared with 4.7 per cent of non-smokers. Along similar lines, 21.2 per cent of current smokers had severe symptoms, as opposed to 14.5 per cent of non-smokers.
According to the group several countries have taken far-reaching actions to prevent imminent upsurge of smoking-induced fatalities as the COVID-19 virus ravages on. For instance, Russia has banned the use of Hookah (Shisha) in all public catering facilities. On March 16 the Governor of Cairo banned Hookah (Shisha) in cafés and restaurants. Other nations that have equally banned Hookah in the last one month are Iran, India, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Oman, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates, among others.
“There is, therefore, no other time than at this period of the pandemic for smokers to quit and for the government to enforce strict adherence to the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act, 2015. In fact, an outright ban of the sale of cigarettes, vaping products, and Shisha and the likes will be a step in the right direction during this period,” ERA/FoEN deputy executive director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said.