Avoid smoking in public to curb the spread of COVID-19 in UAE, doctors advise

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Smoking in indoor public places is only allowed in designated smoking rooms in the UAE.
Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise, doctors have once again advised residents to avoid smoking – both in outdoor and indoor public spaces – in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

While it has not been conclusively proven that cigarette smoke transmits the virus, experts warn that the need to lower the face mask when smoking could allow smokers who might be unknowingly infected to spread. the virus. Additionally, vapers who smoke could be up to 20% more likely to transmit the virus by spreading it in clouds of smoke, according to researchers in Italy, Mexico and New Zealand. Shisha or waterpipe smokers, on the other hand, also face an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, especially when smoking in shisha parlors.

“Ideally, it is advisable not to smoke at all. However, if you are a regular smoker, now is the time to try [different] ways to quit this habit, especially since smokers infected with COVID-19 have been found to have more severe forms of the disease. Those who still wish to smoke anyway should only smoke in designated areas, or in private places where others are not concerned, ”said Dr Ponnusamy Tamilvedan, internal medicine specialist at Medeor Hospital in Dubai.

Public places

Smoking in indoor public places is only permitted in designated smoking rooms. In outdoor areas, smoking is generally permitted. But a number of new public parks and beaches now ban the practice, although many smokers continue to disregard it in the UAE.

Indian resident ZK said she noticed several people smoking in a public park in the capital where smoking is prohibited. “Since there are so many kids playing out there, and during a pandemic, people should be more courteous to others, especially when smoking is illegal. This is reckless, and what if smokers unknowingly transmit the virus? ” she said.

The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation states that exposure to secondhand smoke, or secondhand smoke, can trigger or cause underlying health problems such as heart and respiratory disease, or weaken the immune system. These could then cause more severe symptoms of COVID-19 in those who contract the virus.

Risk for smokers

Dr Arshia Banu Najeem

And while the jury is still out on whether smoking itself can increase the risk of COVID-19 infection, doctors say smokers are putting their own health at risk. “People are strongly advised to refrain from smoking outdoors and indoors. Current evidence suggests that the severity of COVID-19 infection is higher in smokers. Smoking reduces lung function, which makes it harder for the body to fight respiratory illnesses caused by the virus, ”said Dr Arshia Banu Najeem, general practitioner at Aster Clinic – Aswaaq Mall.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Smoking is associated with increased severity of illness and death in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.” The WHO advice was based on a number of studies using data from hospital patients, and while these do not provide a complete picture of the risks of COVID-19 and its spread among smokers, the authority still advises against smoking.

“Given the well-established harms associated with tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke, the WHO recommends that smokers quit,” he said.

Smoke shisha

Smoking on shisha poses even greater risks of spreading COVID-19, especially from the practice of sharing pipes and instruments during a smoking session. The United States National Institutes of Health has also highlighted how young people, who frequent shisha parlors, can contract COVID-19 from such places.

“Smoking shisha often involves the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses, which could facilitate transmission of the COVID-19 virus during community and social gatherings. [These places also make] physically hard distancing, ”said Dr. Najeem.

These risks led to the initial closure of salons in the UAE in 2020, and when these establishments resumed service, authorities banned the supply of single-use equipment, including hoses and tools, as well as sampling. flavors by customers. Still, families have been known to bring their own shisha gear during picnics or park tours.

Avoid smoking in public

Dr Sunil Vyas

Dr Sunil Vyas, pulmonology specialist at Aster Hospital, Al Qusais has strictly discouraged the practice. “If a person smokes despite the known dangers, the place must be isolated, or a designated place for smoking. Smokers should also avoid crowded places and family gatherings, ”he said.

Need for social distancing

For those looking to avoid secondhand smoke, the general wisdom is the same: avoid crowded places and maintain social distancing. And if you can smell the smoke, move away as that means you are too close to infected particles that the smoker could exhale, including aerosolized COVID-19 droplets.

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