Smoking in public spaces and risks of COVID – 19 infection

Dr Arshia Banu Najeem, General Physician, Aster Clinic – Aswaaq Mall

It is strongly advised that people refrain from smoking outdoors and indoors. Current evidence suggests that the severity of COVID-19 infection is higher among smokers. Smoking reduces lung function, making it more difficult for the body to fight off respiratory diseases caused due to the virus.

  • Cigarettes: Following the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, tobacco users (cigarettes, waterpipes, bidis, cigars, heated tobacco products) may be more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19, as the act of smoking involves contact of fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) which increases the possibility of transmission of viruses from hand to mouth.
  • Shisha/Hookah: Smoking water pipes, also known as shisha/ hookah, often involves the sharing of mouth pieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in communal and social gatherings, which makes physical distancing impossible. 
  • Smoking in public places such as in restaurants, open markets as well as in cars and other vehicles, carry the risk of adults and especially children being exposed to passive smoking, causing them to develop more frequent and severe asthma attacks, ear and respiratory infections and heart diseases.

Effects of Smoking during COVID - 19

Given the health risks of tobacco, WHO recommends quitting tobacco usage. Quitting will help your lungs and heart to function better from the moment you stop.  Within 20 minutes of quitting, elevated heart rate and blood pressure drop and after 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the bloodstream drops to normal. Within 2-12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases. After 1-9 months, coughing and shortness of breathe decreases.

Smokers can incur a 2 to 4-fold increased risk of pneumococcal lung disease, a disease associated with high mortality.

Smoking any kind of tobacco reduces lung function and increases the risk of many respiratory infections and can increase the severity of respiratory diseases.

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases as the lung function is already compromised.