According to World Health Organization (WHO) statement, smokers in Indonesia are at high risk of “severe or critical” infection with the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“Smokers are at high risk for heart disease and respiratory disease, which are high risk factors for developing severe or critical disease with COVID-19,” said Dr. Paranie, representative of WHO Indonesia. “Therefore, smokers in Indonesia are at high risk for COVID-19.”
In addition to that, the European Union agency for disease control said smoking can make people more susceptible to serious complications from a coronavirus infection.
In its updated assessment of the risks caused by the coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) included smokers among those potentially most vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Quitting smoking is said to be one way to reduce the risk of severe cases of the virus.
Some of Indonesian smokers, Nadya, a 44-year-old housewife, smokes light cigarettes and is not planning to reduce her smoking habit because of Covid-19. “I don’t go outside much and have been staying home all day since the pandemic began. I think smoking or not smoking won’t affect [my chances of getting infected], so I smoke anyway,” she said.
Another smoker, Sukma Adji, a 22-year-old office worker, said he has not cut down on his smoking habit, but switched to lighter cigarettes. “I have not reduced my smoking, but now I only smoke low-nicotine cigarettes. I don’t see myself stopping just because of Covid-19,” Adji said.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Kabus, a 25-year-old intern, now smokes hookah every day. He said he had reduced his cigarette intake and switched to hookah since the pandemic began, but not because he was afraid of Covid-19.
“I’ve cut down a lot on smoking cigarettes for the past two months, but that’s because I had been very busy, not because of Covid-19. I don’t care [about Covid-19’s effect on smokers], we’re all going to die one day anyway,” he said.
The National Tobacco Control Commission, the Association of Indonesian Pulmonologists and the Eijkman Molecular Biology Institute have warned that smoking increases the risk of Covid-19 infection and might cause complications from the disease.
Moreover, Chinese researchers said male Covid-19 patients in China were often found in worse condition than female patients. This they said might be attributed to the fact that most heavy smokers in China are men.
Chinese doctor Wei Liu through his study, out of a total of 78 Covid-19 patients under his care, eleven got worse and 67 got better within two weeks. Twenty-seven percent of the patients whose conditions became worse had a history of smoking, while only three percent of the patients who improved smoked.