Statement from Savera Kalideen, Executive Director of the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS)
The National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) welcomes government’s decision to uphold the ban on tobacco sales as there is an increasing body of evidence showing that smokers who contract COVID-19 experience more severe disease progression than non-smokers. The European Respiratory Journal published evidence to show that smokers have more ACE-2 receptors in their lungs than non-smokers. These are receptors that the coronavirus latches onto to enter the body, and this increases their susceptibility to the disease.
Moreover, Minister Mkhize has stated that the common health profile of those who died from COVID-19 in South Africa was that they were also hypertensive, had cardio-vascular diseases (CVD), and diabetes It is well known through scientific literature; tobacco smoking is one of the key risk factors for the onset of hypertension and CVD. Consequently, tobacco smokers have severe complications from COVID-19 if they have multi-morbidity.
This decision by government will help to reduce the impact of the pandemic by reducing the severity of disease in smokers who do contract COVID-19. This decision will also reduce the demand on the health system by reducing the number of severe cases of COVID-19 that it has to treat.
The government is required to take a precautionary approach when facing a virus such as the novel coronavirus, which spreads so rapidly, and which can have severe consequences such as acute respiratory distress syndrome which can lead to pneumonia and death in a very short space of time. The novel coronavirus is just months old, so information about the virus is limited, and there is no vaccine to provide protection against COVID-19. Government therefore has a duty to act to ensure that it takes steps to protect the right to health of the population. The ban on tobacco sales is a measure that protects the health of the population as it reduces health harm for those who contract the virus, and reduces demand on the health system.
The results of a survey released by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) shows that 90% of smokers are not buying cigarettes during the lockdown. These smokers would already be over the worst of the withdrawal symptoms. We encourage those who have stopped smoking during this time to continue to stay away from cigarettes. The National Council Against Smoking has also received a lot of calls and messages from people who need help to stop smoking. For help call our Quitline at 011 7203145 or send messages on our WhatsApp line on 063 828 2909.
The country is still in the very early days of the epidemic and we do not yet know how it will impact on our health and our health services. It is wise and prudent of the government to take this action before we begin to see the worst of the epidemic.
Available for interview:
Savera Kalideen, Executive Director of NCAS
Dr. Sharon Nyatsanza, Project &Communications Manager, NCAS
For further information, contact:
Savera Kalideen: 0712270939/ 011 7251514
Sharon Nyatsanza: 0796661356
RESOURCES TO HELP SMOKERS QUIT:
Call the National Council Against Smoking - Quitline at 011 720 3145 for tips to help you stop smoking, or visit: www.againstsmoking.co.za or WhatsApp on 0638282909
CANSA runs an online programme which also provides support and information for smokers who would like to stop smoking onhttp://www.ekickbutt.org.za/.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa has professional staff that can provide educational support during the challenging time you may face during trying to quit tobacco smoking. During the period of the lockdown, you may call 084 2507374 for assistance.
Vardavas CI, Nikitara K. COVID-19 and smoking: A systematic review of the evidence. Tobacco Induced Diseases2020;18(March):20. doi:10.18332/tid/119324.
J Gotts et al What are the respiratory effects of e-cigarettes?, https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l5275.
Liu, Wei; et al Analysis of factors associated with disease outcomes in hospitalized patients with 2019 novel coronavirus disease, Chinese Medical Journal: February 28, 2020 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue – doi: 10.1097/CM9.0000000000000775.
Brake, Samuel James, et al. "Smoking Upregulates Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme-2 Receptor: A Potential Adhesion Site for Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19)." (2020): 841.
Wang JL, Q.; Chen, R.; Chen, T.; Li, J. Susceptibility Analysis of COVID-19 in Smokers Based on ACE2, 2020; Hoffmann, Markus, et al. "SARS-CoV-2 cell entry depends on ACE2 and TMPRSS2 and is blocked by a clinically proven protease inhibitor." Cell (2020).
Kathryn Barnsley & Sukhwinder Singh Sohal ‘COVID-19, propelled by smoking, could destroy entire nations’, (2020) European Respiratory Journal; Xu, H. et al. High expression of ACE2 receptor of 2019-nCoV on the epithelial cells of oral mucosa. International Journal of Oral Science, doi:10.1038/s41368-020-0074-x (2020).
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases, COVID-19 UPDATE, https://www.nicd.ac.za/covid-19-update-46/.