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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/12/20

Tobacco-caused diseases are a bane to the pandemic

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Darpan Choudhary, Harshal Patidar, Manas Naidu, Niveditha Arjun, Shruti Iyer, Shyam Sunder Shrivastava

'A cigarette is a pinch of tobacco rolled in paper with fire at one end and a fool at the other' had said George Bernard Shaw.
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"A cigarette is a pinch of tobacco rolled in paper with fire at one end and a fool at the other" had said George Bernard Shaw.

Grappling with a pandemic that has impacted humanity is no mean task. Scientists, doctors, governments, civilians - the entire world - have adorned their respective uniforms and stand united in this war against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Inevitably, the entire focus of all authorities, leaders and citizens has shifted to containing the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). All contemporary issues and concerns of the society, which continue to affect the behaviour and lifestyle of the community, seem to have been neglected and, in return, are allegedly becoming a factor in making the pandemic more severe.

Amidst this horror, evidence has emerged from several studies in the countries hardest hit by the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO), in one of its statements, supported the evidence and claimed that COVID-19 casualties are alarmingly higher among people with pre-existing conditions including non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as cardiovascular and chronic respiratory conditions, cancers, and diabetes. The statement further mentioned that we cannot ignore the fact that tobacco use is indeed the main common risk factor linked to all of these diseases, and can hence be considered to have a major impact on the adverse outcomes of the pandemic. Worst is to realize that every disease caused by tobacco is preventable only if we choose life, not tobacco.

Laura Weeden, Associate Vice President at Population Reference Bureau (PRB) and Dr Tara Singh Bam, Deputy Regional Director (Asia Pacific), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), Singapore, more specifically highlighted the interdependence of tobacco consumption, NCDs and COVID-19. They were speaking at an online session hosted by CNS (Citizen News Service) and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Indore. Sensitizing and informing the public about the existence of this relationship is important to prevent the deterioration of public health. The preferential treatment of COVID-19 while neglecting the pre-existing NCDs and tobacco-related health issues can have adverse effects.

non-communicable diseases, tobacco and pandemic

While it is true that no one is exempt from the clutches of the corona virus, there is increasing evidence to show that some sections of society are more vulnerable than others. One such section comprises those individuals with non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

According to Laura Weeden, NCDs are an important indicator of the overall health of a country and they happen to be one of the leading causes of deaths worldwide. The extent of evil that NCDs are capable of has been further amplified by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. "People with underlying chronic conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases are particularly at risk of infection as the global community grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic," Weeden says.

Weeden stresses the importance of a thorough understanding of the challenges that these NCDs present. An essential part of this is to be aware of and identify the various lifestyle habits, commonly referred to as the behavioural risk factors, that increase a person's risk of developing an NCD. These behavioural risk factors range from tobacco use and excessive drinking to obesity and other similar unhealthy lifestyle habits that people - the youth in particular - are prone to fall prey to.

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