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Drinking and smoking ‘not helpful’ in fighting Covid-19: Mkhize

Smoking cigarettes is just plain bad for you, and drinking doesn't help the country's attempts to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

These were statements made by health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize during a media briefing on Saturday night.

Asked about the direct impacts of smoking on the Covid-19 respiratory illness, Mkhize said, simply, he wasn't a fan.

In general, cigarettes “have a very negative impact”, he said. He said both active and passive smoking was linked to “many other conditions”, including primary disease, pulmonary symptoms or chest-related symptoms. It also negatively affects the lining of the lungs and the cardiovascular system.

Mkhize said smoking was specifically discouraged given the coronavirus pandemic. “Once you put Covid-19 in as an added infection, we believe those who smoke are more vulnerable to being affected because Covid-19 affects the capacity of the lungs to be able to process the daily exchange of gases in the lungs.

“We really discourage people from smoking. I still have to find a benefit that tobacco will have in an individual,” he said.

Mkhize spoke about smoking as South Africa has banned the sale of cigarettes and alcohol under the nationwide lockdown, despite threats of lawsuits to have the items on sale.

Mkhize was also specifically asked about his "fears around alcohol consumption" during the lockdown. He said the overall impact of alcohol consumption was also negative. "The problem with alcohol consumption is that we have to rely on people's sober judgments to conduct themselves in a way that encourages distancing, encourages people coughing properly, hygiene and so on. The impact of alcohol is that it will tend to reduce that capacity in an individual.

"We believe it's not something helpful in the management of the Covid-19 pandemic," he said. The minister said reduced alcohol consumption was also linked to freeing space and resources at hospitals."The less alcohol you have, the less trauma you'd find in hospitals. There are fewer people shot, in car accidents, fewer people who have been stabbed and so on.

"That's quite apart from the impact of alcohol on the body. Alcohol results in a lot of other problems, including liver problems, neuropathy problems, damage to the nerves. "Under the circumstances in which we're working, we need everyone to cooperate so we reduce pressure in hospitals. We can also reduce the chance of people becoming infected when they take a responsible approach when sober," he said.

The article originally appeared in the Times Live

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