Coronavirus: Tobacco, waterpipe use increases risk of severe COVID-19 infection – WHO

The UN health agency warned that tobacco’s killer toxins also wreak havoc on the environment. [Photo:]

People who have cardiovascular and respiratory conditions caused by tobacco or waterpipe use are at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms, the World Health Organisation has said.

WHO Eastern Mediterranean region in a statement via its website said there are possible relations between tobacco use and the COVID19 epidemic.

The UN health agency said information from China, where COVID-19 originated, shows that people who have cardiovascular and respiratory conditions are at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Evidence-based research on Covid-19 shows that infected patients with any underlying diseases are likely to have a critical or severe crisis.

The research conducted in 55,924 laboratory confirmed cases in the Asian country shows that the crude fatality ratio for COVID-19 patients is much higher among those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, chronic respiratory disease or cancer than those with no pre-existing chronic medical conditions

“This demonstrates that these pre-existing conditions may contribute to increasing the susceptibility of such individuals to Covid-19,” it said.


The world in the last three months has been battling the plague of Covid-19 which has spread to every continent except Antarctica.

As of Sunday 8:50 GMT, about 157,208 confirmed cases have been reported in 153 countries with 5,842 deaths.

China, where the disease originated from, has the highest number of confirmed cases so far at 80, 849.

While some people have been recovering from the virus, others are less fortunate, especially the aged and those with underlying health challenges such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Tobacco harm

Tobacco use has also been pointed out as the underlying cause of many non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and respiratory or pulmonary disease.

Tobacco use of any kind has been identified as harmful to the bodily systems.

Also, tobacco use substantially increases the risk of tuberculosis infection and the most important risk-factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Since Covid-19 primarily affects the respiratory system, often causing mild to severe respiratory damage, smokers might be at more risk given that smoking increases the risk of lower respiratory tract infection.

However, the result is not yet cast in stone given that COVID-19 is a new disease, and the link between tobacco smoking and the disease has yet to be established.

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However, there is an increased risk of more serious symptoms and death among COVID-19 patients that have underlying cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).

While research on the disease is still ongoing, available evidence has shown that the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is from the same family as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, both of which have been associated with cardiovascular damage (either acute or chronic).

Research has shown COVID-19 patients in China with CVDs are at greater risk of more severe symptoms.

In addition, there is evidence that COVID-19 patients that have more severe symptoms often have heart-related complications.

WHO said understanding the relation between COVID-19 and cardiovascular health is important because tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke are major causes of CVDs globally.

“The effect of COVID-19 on the cardiovascular system could thus make pre-existing cardiovascular conditions worse.

“In addition, a weaker cardiovascular system among COVID-19 patients with a history of tobacco use could make such patients susceptible to severe symptoms, thereby increasing the chance of death,” it said.

Coronavirus factsheet


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