A civil Society organisation, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), has warned that smokers are at higher risk of developing fatal complications if they contract coronavirus.
In a statement signed by Philip Jakpor, the group’s Head of Media & Campaign, he said while there is currently no conclusive evidence that people who smoke tobacco are at higher risk of being infected with the virus, researchers have confirmed that people who smoke are at greater risk of other respiratory infections.
According to the group, the largest study investigating the link between COVID-19 and smoking published to date looked at clinical outcomes from 1,099 patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection from 532 hospitals across China.
Quoting a research, the group said “12.4 per cent of current smokers either died, were admitted to an intensive care unit or required mechanical ventilation, compared with 4.7% of non-smokers. Along similar lines, 21.2per cent of current smokers had severe symptoms, as opposed to 14.5% of non-smokers”.
The civil society group added that similarly, the World Health Orgnisation (WHO) has also warned that since smoking involves consecutive hand-to-face motions, it creates a route of potential viral transmission, like the current COVID 19.
Deputy Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi urged the Nigerian government to enforce the National Tobacco Control (NTC) Act of 2015.
He added that the Federal Government should learn from other countries who have banned the use of Hookah otherwise known as Shisha in public gatherings as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus.
“Several countries have taken far-reaching actions to prevent imminent upsurge of smoking-induced fatalities as the COVID-19 virus ravages on.
“For instance, Russia has banned the use of Hookah (Shisha) in all public catering facilities. On March 16 the Governor of Cairo banned Hookah (Shisha) in cafés and restaurants.
“Other nations that have equally banned Hookah in the last one month are Iran, India, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Oman, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates, among others,” the statement read.
ERA/FoEN also cautioned public officials from receiving donations from tobacco companies, saying that they are “greek gift” with reference to a media report that Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde is already in talks with some companies, including the British America Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) to make donations to tackle the spread of the pandemic in the state.
“These “Greek Gifts” are ultimately targeted at compromising public officials, weakening heath systems and positioning the tobacco industry as a credible stakeholder in public health policy,” the group said.