500,000 smokers risk contracting coronavirus – FDA warns as nation marks World No Tobacco Day

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More than 500,000 people in the country estimated to smoke cigarette on daily basis and other tobacco users are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and succumbing to it, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has warned.

This is because the hand to mouth contact during smoking and sharing of mouthpieces and shisha tubes could easily aid the spread while the weakening of the lung due to the smoking, makes it difficult for the body to fight the virus.

The FDA has therefore cautioned all smokers especially the youth who are fond of using innovative forms of tobacco like shisha to quit or stop smoking in public places so they do not endanger the lives of second-hand smokers.

Second-hand smokers are persons who do not smoke but inhale combination of smoke from the burning ends of a cigarette and the smoke breathed out by smokers.

The Head of Tobacco and Substance Abuse Department of the FDA, Dr Mrs Olivia Boateng made the disclosure in an interview with the Ghanaian Times on Friday, ahead of this year’s World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) which was marked yesterday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and global partners on every 31 May, mark WNTD to raise awareness on the deadly effects of tobacco use and second-hand smoke exposure as well as discourage the use of tobacco in any form.

The theme for this year’s edition is, ‘Protecting youth from industry manipulation and preventing them from tobacco and nicotine use.’

As of yesterday morning, Ghana had recorded 7,881 cases of COVID-19 with 36 deaths and nearly 2540 recoveries.

Dr Boateng explained that a review of studies by public health experts convened by WHO on April 29 2020 confirmed the higher risk of smokers to COVID-19 aside other respiratory diseases.

“The act of smoking meant that fingers and possibly contaminated cigarettes are in contact with lips which increases the possibility of transmission of virus from hand to mouth,” she said.

Giving details of data on smokers she said the 500,000 daily cigarette smokers figure, was estimated by the Tobacco Atlas Ghana and that it included more than 425,200 men, 69,200 women and 2,700 boys.

On prevalence amongst the youth, she said that per the Global Youth Tobacco Survey (GYTS) Ghana Facts Sheet 2017, 8.8 per cent of boys and 8.1 per cent of girls in the country currently used any tobacco products.

The survey further revealed that some preferred electronic cigarettes and this category had 4.9 per cent of students out of which 4.9 per cent were boys, and 5.0 per cent were girls.

She said tobacco killed more than eight million people globally every year out of which more than seven million were from direct tobacco use and around 1.2 million are due to non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

In Ghana, she said, smoking of cigarettes alone killed about 75 men weekly.

Dr Boateng said the markets surveillance, enforcement of ban on tobacco advertisement, high registration tobacco product fees and public smoking had helped to reduce the prevalence to a large extent but the authority would need collaboration and more resources to reduce it drastically.

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