No smoking day: Tobacco Use in India post COVID-19 Pandemic

The use of Tobacco is a major risk factor for the four main Non-communicable Diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease which puts people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when they get affected by COVID-19.

According to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey-India, the country is the second-largest producer and consumer of tobacco products. Tobacco happens to be the foremost preventable cause of disease and death in the world today that kills half of the people who use it.

The available estimates in India show that there were 930,000 annual deaths of smoking-attributable compared to 350,00 deaths of smokeless tobacco (SLT) attributable, together accounting for 1,280,000 deaths per year, ie 3500 deaths every day. According to 2012 WHO Global Report on “Mortality attributable to tobacco ‘7% of all deaths (for ages 30 and over) in India are attributable to tobacco.

As per the studies conducted by this Ministry, apart from the death and diseases, tobacco also impacts the economic development of the country as the total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases and deaths in the year 2011 was INR 104,500 crores, which is a huge burden for a developing country like India.

The use of Tobacco is a major risk factor for the four main Non-communicable Diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease which puts people with these conditions at higher risk for developing severe illness when they get affected by COVID-19. Also, non-communicable diseases account for 63 per cent of all deaths in India that is expected to rise further.

Tobacco smoke contains toxic chemicals that damage the lungs and linings of airways and is also a risk factor for infectious diseases- tuberculosis and lower respiratory infections. There are more than 20 per cent of global TB incidents that may be attributed to smoking. Both smokers and non-smokers that get exposed to second-hand smoke are significantly associated with TB infection, disease and mortality.

Tobacco or nicotine use and COVID-19

The tobacco smoke chemicals suppress the activity of different types of immune cells that are involved in general and targeted immune responses, impairing lung functioning, which reduces immunity and makes it harder for the body to fight off varied diseases.

According to experts, smokers are more likely to develop severe symptoms or die from COVID-19, as it attacks the lungs. Also, the use of tobacco products like Gutkha, Khaini, Zarda and Paan urges people to spit in public places increases health risks of spreading Covid 19, swine flu, tuberculosis and encephalitis, etc.

The Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has warned against the use of any tobacco products that concurred with the WHO statement on tobacco use and COVID-19, which was issued on 11 May 2020.

Benefits of quitting smoke

As soon as one quits smoking, the carbon monoxide level in the bloodstream drops to normal within 12 hours and the lung function starts increasing in 2-12 weeks.

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