‘Smoking a double burden for those Covid-19 positive’

KUALA LUMPUR: Public health experts, advising smokers against the ill effects of the habit, say enforcement by the authorities should be conducted continuously and made more visible.

Volunteers for Community Engagement and Empowerment for Covid-19 chairman Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said it was important to have the smoking ban in place.

“Covid-19 is acute, current and may have a long-term effect. But smoking is here in the past, present and future.

“Smoking and cigarette smoke had a long history of being scientifically proven to cause short- and long-term effects on exposed persons,” said the public health medicine specialist and epidemiologist.

Dr Zainal Ariffin, who is the former Public Health Physicians’ Association president, reminded smokers that if infected by Covid-19, there would be a double burden on their already compromised lungs and organs.

Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said for smokers who contracted Covid-19, prior lung injury from smoking might aggravate lung disease.

For people with long-term exposure to smoke, she said lung changes and damage might occur and even mimic the injuries of a Covid-19 infection.

The health economics, hospital and health management professor said smokers must understand the injury they were causing to their own body, specifically their lungs, heart and vessels.

“The increased risk of disease may cause early deaths and in some countries, hospital admissions sometimes warrant co-payment from smokers and are not subsidised,” she said.

Dr Sharifa Ezat added that the ban on smoking at eateries and restaurants was put in place to protect human health by preventing side-stream smoke, second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke, or cigarette smoke exposure to passive smokers.

“The smoke from open combustion is detrimental to other people, especially pregnant women, children and the elderly.

“It can cause spontaneous reactions in people who may be sensitive to smoke such as red eyes, eye itchiness, coughing and shortness of breaths. In the long run, chronic exposure may cause lung changes too, especially if staying in the same household.

“We should ban cigarettes in public spaces and these include restaurants, offices and workplaces. But for those already addicted to cigarettes, a ‘safer’ option must be provided and how to cease smoking altogether,” she said.

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