COVID-19: Why smoking cigarettes could be dangerous now

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Smokers they say, are liable to die young and a lot of people laugh over this statement and still consume large amount of cigarettes daily.

Cigarette smoking is already well known to be the leading cause of preventable diseases and death in some cases as it can cause lung disease by damaging your airways and the small air sacs (alveoli) found in your lungs. Lung diseases caused by smoking include COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

If you have asthma, tobacco smoke can trigger an attack or make an attack worse.

Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers in general.

But that aside, I was motivated to research more and write this piece when I came across a tweet by Dr Chioma Nwakanma – @DrZobo, where she noted that “if there was ever a time to stop smoking, it is now”.

Her tweet reads;

We lost a colleague to #COVID19 at LUTH yesterday. He practices at a private hospital where he was exposed to the virus. According to sources, he was a known asthmatic, an underlying condition which complicated his case and some of you are even still smoking? RIP Soldier

She added that;

If Covid19 has taught us anything clearly, it is that healthy lungs help you beat the odds of survival. People with already underlying conditions (esp respiratory) encounter varying complications. If there was ever a time to stop smoking, it is now! Don’t be silly. Thanks

I discovered that her colleague who died was a Nigerian medical practitioner, Dr. Chugbo Emeka, who became the second Nigerian Doctor to die from Covid-19. He died in the early hours of Wednesday 15th April 2020.

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He died at LUTH after contracting the virus from a patient he was managing in a private hospital.

And the Lagos University Teaching Hospital [LUTH] had this to say on their official twitter page;

“The doctor, who died at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, was rushed to the facility on Monday after attempting to manage a COVID-19 patient in a private hospital in Lagos.”

But then, the words of Dr Chioma Nwakanma about smokers made me dig deeper into this and I discovered that a possible contributor to the higher death rate in Europe and America could possibly be as a result of the high rate of smoking in those countries.

Looking at statistics, the mortality rate for covid-19 has been very scary especially in top countries in Europe – Italy, USA and Spain.

Italy:
Confirmed
168,941
Recovered
40,164
Deaths
22,170

USA:
Confirmed
668,163
Recovered
53,616
Deaths
34,191

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Spain:
Confirmed
184,945
Recovered
74,797
Deaths
19,314

Nigeria:
Confirmed
442
Recovered
152
Deaths
13

According to statistics from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], in 2018, nearly 14 of every 100 U.S. adults aged 18 years or older (13.7%) currently smoked cigarettes.

This means an estimated 34.2 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes. More than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.

I also gathered that in United States, Cigarette smoking accounted for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths.

While Statista.com disclosed that in 2018, there were 11.6 million cigarette smokers in Italy. Smoking was more common among males than among females and it was particularly habitual for men aged 25 to 44 years old.

Same Statista.com revealed that, over 8.6 million people were daily smokers in Spain as of 2018, of which approximately 3.8 million were women and about 4.9 million were men.

While in Nigeria, no recent data to show the total number of smokers in Nigeria except for United Nations demographic projections for Nigeria, which estimated about 8 million smokers in Nigeria in 1995 among person aged 15 years or more, with this increasing to about 11 million current smokers by 2015.

When I decided to contact few doctors on my list to inquire if smoking actually fast track death when one is infected with Coronavirus, here is what they had to say.

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Doctor Remi in Lagos said;

“Its very possible, Smoking affects the lungs.

Speaking on WhatsApp with a junior Doctor in UK, he said;

“I don’t know about fast tracking death as such but evidence thus far generally shows that in essence the better shape you are in, the more likely you are to recover well should you contract Coronavirus.

He added that;

A whole host of pre-existing health problems have been shown to increase ones risk of poor health and potential death from Coronavirus including heart disease and lung disease both of which have been linked to smoking. So smoking definitely doesn’t help you recover should you contract Coronavirus.”

A very close friend in UK, who pleaded anonymity during a WhatsApp chat said;

“Yes bad health practices like drinking and smoking contributes to the weakening of the immune system. My son is asthmatic his mother was f**king smoking when she was pregnant with him. So I take every precaution possible to keep him safe.”

One tend to ponder, could this be a course to worry about? Maybe this should be a major reason why it is dangerous to smoke cigarettes now.

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