‘Ban smoking in high-risk areas’

The National Commission on Tobacco Control (NCTC) has urged President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to enhance Covid-19 mitigation efforts by banning tobacco cigarettes and electronic cigarettes, especially in “high-risk areas”.

In a letter issued on Monday, the commission urged the president to ban cigarette sales, remove cigarette displays from stores and tighten the ban on cigarette advertisements.

The NCTC stated that it was encouraging stronger “enforcement of cigarette-free areas”, adding that private homes could be included among the high-risk areas to ensure safety and comfort indoors.

“The government (should) call on people who smoke to stop or reduce smoking in order to prevent an increase in Covid-19 deaths, ” the letter said.

Joint Ministerial Decree No. 17/2011 bans the use, sales and advertisement of cigarette on public transportation and in public spaces, as well as at health facilities, schools, houses of worship and playgrounds. The regulation does not stipulate any sanctions for violators, however.

Komnas PT’s call to impose a smoking ban during the epidemic is also endorsed by 17 health associations and organisations, including the Indonesian Public Health Association (IAKMI), the Indonesian Society of Respirology (PDPI) and the Indonesian Heart Foundation (YJI).

PDPI chairman Agus Dwi Susanto said that that certain substances in cigarettes, such as nicotine and tar, could improve the regulation of the angiotensin-converting-enzyme-2 (ACE-2) receptors in the human body.

Studies have shown that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 uses the enzyme to enter human cells for replication, according to STAT.

Agus cited a study “published ahead of print” on Feb 28 in the Chinese Medical Journal suggesting that smoking could increase the risk of pneumonia when contracting Covid-19.

He also cited another study published on April 15 in the Journal of Medical Virology, “The impact of COPD and smoking history on the severity of Covid-19: A systemic review and meta-analysis”, which suggests that heavy smokers are twice as more likely to experience severe outcomes of the disease.

He said smoking could reduce the motility of the cilia in the respiratory system that prevented harmful substances from entering the lungs by 50%. Smoking was also a cause of other immune system disorders.

“Passive smokers are also at risk because they also inhale the dangerous substances in cigarettes, ” Agus said at a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

“Cigarette smoking can also cause (Covid-19) transmission, as the smoke spreads respiratory droplets when exhaled.” — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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