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Quit smoking immediately to reduce the risks of COVID-19
2020.03.31
In view of the latest epidemic development of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) across the globe, Hong Kong Council on Smoking and health (COSH) advised the general public to stop using any kinds of tobacco products including conventional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, heat-not-burn tobacco products and waterpipe tobacco immediately. Mr Antonio KWONG, COSH Chairman said, “Study of COVID-19 cases revealed that smokers are associated with higher risk of getting severe symptoms than non-smokers. Also, smoking at home increases the risk of secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure among family members, especially young children. COSH reminded the public not to initiate smoking and smokers must quit smoking now to safeguard their health.”

There is a misleading claim that “smoking could help prevent COVID-19”. The World Health Organization had already clarified that the statement is false, and scientific evidence has also emerged to show that smoking may increase the risk of the infection. According to a review study on COVID-19 cases in China, smokers were 1.4 times more likely to have severe symptoms of COVID-19 and approximately 2.4 times more likely to be admitted to an Intensive Care Unit, need mechanical ventilation or die compared to non-smokers. Since smokers are unable to wear a surgical mask or avoid contact with the mouth and nose while smoking, it might increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 and viral infection.

According to COSH’s Tobacco Control Policy-related Survey conducted from February to June 2018, among all respondents, 15.1% lived with at least one smoker and 13.8% reported SHS exposures at home in the past seven days. Evaluation Study on “School Interactive Education Theatre Programme 2018-2019” reflected that 34.6% of children exposed to SHS at home in the past seven days. Members of the public are urged not to smoke at home to protect family from SHS exposure, as well as to minimize the risk of smoking-related fire accidents while staying home for prevention of COVID-19.

Some of the recent confirmed COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong traced to visits to bars, expert in communicable diseases warned that the use of waterpipe tobacco in bars might increase the risk of infection transmission among users. Smoke of waterpipe tobacco contains numerous toxicants including tar, carbon monoxide, heavy metals and carcinogens. A research found that one-hour waterpipe smoking session exposes the user to 100 to 200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette. COSH emphasized that there is no safe and harmless tobacco product. All people should reduce social activities, maintain good personal hygiene and develop healthy habits for reduction of disease risk. COSH highly recommended smokers to stop smoking as soon as possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Smokers can call the Integrated Smoking Cessation Hotline (Department of Health) 1833 183 for professional assistance if necessary.
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