Six years earlier, in 2014, the US Department of Health and Human Services published a report on smoking. The report informed of 480,000 deaths of active smokers and 41,000 deaths of passive smokers per year in the USA. In the past six years, the figures have increased alarmingly. Around 34,200,000 million American adults are addicted to smoking today. More than half of them have a disease caused by smoking.
Smoking is the leading cause of one-fifth of deaths in the US annually. 84% of the deaths of lung cancer patients is due to smoking. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that more people have died of cigarette smoking in the US than all the wars combined. The terror of Novel Coronavirus has firmly gripped the whole world. The virus has already spread to more than 185 countries and territories. Medical experts and researchers across the globe have failed to develop any vaccine that can work against the virus. The virus targets the human respiratory system. It reaches the lungs, multiplies there, and halts the oxygen supply to the heart. The risk posed by the virus to the lungs has brought the controversial topic to debate ‘Are Smokers at greater risk of COVID-19 infection?’
The Novel Coronavirus pandemic originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has already claimed more than 158,000 lives globally. Business Insider Australia, says that the virus has caused the most extensive global recession in the history of humankind. The coronavirus damages the walls and lining of alveoli. The plasma protein released by the deformed blood capillaries around the air sacs (alveoli) blocks the passage of air into the blood resulting in breathing complications. After a lengthy incubation period of fourteen days, the virus begins to show the symptoms. The symptoms vary from person-to-person, ranging from simple flu to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The majority of the infected people experience sore throat at the beginning. Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in the US, recently expressed in her blog that COVID-19 could hit some population with ‘substance abuse disorders’ particularly hard. The Chinese Medical Journal reported the mortality rate due to the Corona pandemic was 14 times higher among smokers than non-smokers.
The carbon monoxide emitted by the cigarettes into the lungs decreases the volume of oxygen in the lungs. It adversely affects the whole body as the vital body parts are then unable to receive enough oxygen, and the heart has to work hard to pump sufficient blood to different body parts. One of the dangers posed by smoking includes the increased contact between fingers and lips, thereby, facilitating the entry of the virus inside the body—smoking results in the frail immune system. And a weak immune system has minimal chances of survival if coronavirus invades it. Smoking blocks the cough reflexes of the body, which enables the virus to stick to the air-passage.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a group of inflammatory lung diseases caused by smoking. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the USA. The range of diseases cause inflammation of the lungs and make it difficult to breathe. The two most widespread forms of COPD include Emphysema and Chronic bronchitis. Emphysema is the dreadful condition when alveoli (small air-sacs) present at the end of bronchioles (thin branches of bronchi) in the lungs get destroyed due to the prolonged exposure to toxic particulate matter of cigarettes. The toxins of cigarettes destroy the elastic fibers of alveoli, deform them, and make them floppy. Ultimately, the exhalation capacity of the lungs is adversely affected. Chronic Bronchitis is the condition when bronchial tubes that carry oxygen to the lungs get narrower and inflamed. The lungs begin to produce excess mucous, and the patient catches a chronic cough to relieve himself of excess mucous. The bronchioles carry thin blood vessels over them. The carbon dioxide is forced out of the lungs by the elastic force of bronchioles and alveoli. COPD reduces lung elasticity.
Consequently, complete exhalation is not possible, and a large volume of the toxic air is left in the lungs. Dr. Sanjay Mukhopadhyay, MD at Cleveland, stresses the severe damage produced by the virus on the human respiratory system. He urged people to take all necessary precautions to prevent the virus.
Inhalers of e-cigarettes, also known as vapers, are at equal risk. E-cigarettes are refillable cartridges that contain nicotine. The exposure of lungs to aerosols of the e-cigarettes weakens the defense mechanism of lungs. Vaping affects the cilia in the nose and makes them insensitive towards the sieving of viruses from the inhaled air. Although it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anybody below 21 still, research shows that 37% of American high school students use vapers.
At a time when we are facing a global economic recession, 2.31 million beds are being occupied by the corona infected patients in hospitals and many millions quarantined. 99.9% of educational institutions closed, sports events canceled. On the one hand, the world going from wars to a ceasefire, and on the other hand, xenophobia emerging in young minds.
Our conscious should also make a brave effort to eradicate the stigma of smoking from the globe. The weak immunity and floppy lungs are the fastest falling prey to corona deaths. Otherwise, a large chunk of the healthy population has recovered too. Matshona Dhilwayo, a Zimbabwean philosopher and author of ‘The Little Book of Inspiration,’ says, “To be a champion, compete; to be a great champion, compete with the best; but to be the greatest champion, compete with yourself.” Likewise, our fight is also at two fronts, one with a corona pandemic and the other with the smoking temptation.