By Hassan Zaggi
Tobacco smokers have a higher risk of severe disease and death if infected with COVID-19, the World Health Organisation (WHO), has warned.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, disclosed this in message to mark the year 2020 World No Tobacco Day.
“All forms of tobacco use are harmful and there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke.
“E-cigarette use increases the risk of heart disease and lung disorders, and the nicotine in these products can impair brain development in children.
“Smoking shisha is as harmful as other forms of tobacco use and chewing tobacco can cause mouth cancer, tooth loss and gum disease,” she stressed.
Dr. Moeti further revealed that 94 million men and 13 million women and one in five adolescents use tobacco products, in the African region.
“Tobacco use is increasing among 13–15-year-old girls and use of tobacco products other than cigarettes is increasing in the Region.
“Every year, 146 000 Africans die from tobacco-related diseases. Illness related to tobacco use accounts for 3.5% of annual total health expenditure in the Region,” she noted.
She, however, said that the WHO will continue to work with partners to debunk myths, expose manipulation tactics and strengthen healthy policies.
“I call on all young people to join the fight against the tobacco epidemic.
“I encourage youth groups to build a movement for a tobacco-free generation. I urge celebrities and influencers to reject all forms of tobacco industry sponsorship.
“I call upon parents, caregivers and teachers to educate children on the harms of tobacco products use and advocate for 100% smoke-free public places and banning all forms of tobacco advertising,” she appealed.
The WHO Regional Director, therefore, called on all governments to implement comprehensive tobacco control policies as outlined in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control to save lives and reduce health-care costs.