DOH asks public to stop smoking to prevent spread of COVID-19

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Smokers made up more than 25 percent of COVID-19 patients in China who were in the intensive care unit and in need of ventilators, DOH warned. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 8) — The Department of Health on Wednesday urged the pub lic to stop smoking as smokers and vapers are at greater risk of contracting the deadly COVID-19.

The DOH stressed that smokers are vulnerable to the complications brought by the novel coronavirus.

Dahil po rito pinapakiusapan namin ang mga smokers na huminto na sa paninigarilyo para sa inyong kapakanan at kalusugan” said Dr. Beverly Ho, special assistant to Health Secretary Francisco Duque in an online briefing.

[Translation: Because of this, we are asking smokers to stop smoking for your protection and health.]

The department cited data from China stating that more than 25 percent of COVID-19 patients in the East Asian country who either died, needed more ventilators or were housed in intensive care units, were smokers. DOH also urged the public to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke.

Smoking weakens the body, the agency said, making it sensitive to respiratory ailments such as colds, which are also linked to COVID-19. Flu-like symptoms such as high fever, coughs and sneezing are considered red flags for the viral infection.

According to the World Health Organization, cigarettes also increase the risk of hand-to-mouth transmission of the virus.

Health officials around the world have repeatedly emphasized the importance of keeping your hands off one's face and washing them with soap. This is because viruses that affect the respiratory system often enter the body through nose and lips. On the other hand, washing hands with soap kills off the bacteria.

Exhaling smoke also aids in spreading the virus in the air, DOH said. COVID-19 is spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth when people infected with the virus cough or sneeze.

Another way to protect oneself from contracting the disease is by wearing masks or face covers. The government has already mandated this practice in Luzon.

However, the WHO has stood firm against putting on masks unless the person is sick. WHO said that due to a looming shortage, the medical frontliners must be given priority to access protective gear.