The World Health Organisation has designated 31 May as ‘World No Tobacco Day.’ The theme for this year is ‘Commit to Quit’, which assumes significant importance in the present times of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The association of smoking with the COVID-19 infection has been controversial.
Initial studies from China and Europe seemed to suggest a lower prevalence of COVID infection among smokers and protective effects of smoking against the effects of COVID.
However, subsequent analysis showed serious methodological flaws in those studies. And later studies showed that smokers in fact fare poorly after a coronavirus infection.
Tobacco smoke contains toxic chemicals which cause damages to the linings of the airways and the lungs.
The chemicals in tobacco smoke suppress the activity of different types of immune cells leading to weakening of immunity and thus impairing one’s ability to fight the COVID-19 infection.
The act of smoking involves the fingers and possibly contaminated cigarettes coming in contact with the lips and thus increasing the risk of transmission of virus from hand to mouth.
Moreover, chewing tobacco products is associated with usually spitting in public places which also accelerates the risk of transmission of COVID through saliva droplets.
Also, smokers are more likely to have heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic lung disease and diabetes, all of which are important comorbidities for developing severe illness and adversely affecting the clinical outcome in COVID affected patients.
Therefore, it is vital that smokers quit the habit. And the COVID pandemic couldn’t be a better time to quit smoking. However, it can be a challenge given the economic and social stress prevailing during the pandemic. Smokers will need help to quit.
And the WHO World No Tobacco Day 2021 campaign aims to empower and support tobacco users on their journey to quit.
There is no single and easy way to quit tobacco, but here are some tips
· Make a ‘quit plan’ and stick to it. It doesn’t matter if you fail a couple of times. Keep trying and don’t give up.
· Modify your diet. There are some food items which make cigarettes taste better like meat, alcohol, tea, coffee, and aerated beverages. Avoid them and instead have fruits, vegetables, cheese, water, and fresh fruit juices. Also, if you have a habit of post-meals cigarettes, then change your routine and do some activity to divert your mind.
· Have a support group in place to help you through this — family, friends, doctor, counsellor.
· Nicotine-replacement therapy like chewing-gum or skin-patches can be very helpful to tide over your withdrawal symptoms.
· Try to avoid stressful situations during the first few weeks after you stop smoking.
· Exercise, even a 5-minute walk or stretch, has been shown to reduce your cravings and ease some of your withdrawal symptoms.
· Try to be around your non-smoker friends and avoid your smoker companions for a while.
· Clean your house, your surroundings, clothes, and belongings so that you do not get the familiar scent of cigarette smoke which will remind you of smoking.
By: Stella Annan |myactiveonline.com