Warning: Smoking and vaping can worsen COVID-19

Philippines/Bangkok, 26 March 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportune time for smokers and vapers to quit their addiction, says the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA).

“The World Health Organization (WHO) clearly states that smoking and vaping are undoubtedly harmful. Given the available evidence about COVID-19, people who smoke or vape should quit now to reduce their risk of infection and severe lung damage. Furthermore, smokers and vapers, who are asymptomatic carriers of the virus, can easily transmit the virus to those around them through secondhand smoke or aerosol exposure,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, executive director of SEATCA.

The COVID-19 virus attacks the lungs, and medical experts agree that weakened lungs and immune systems predispose to higher risk of severe respiratory illness caused by COVID-19.  People who smoke, vape, or have substance use disorders could be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 according to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

While the WHO sees the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to quit smoking and vaping, the tobacco industry is continuing with business as usual to undermine quit efforts by promoting its cigarettes, e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (HTPs). Tobacco companies are also exploiting the situation by making COVID-related charitable donations and public health messages in attempts to rebuild their public image and buy political favor.

“Prevention is always better than cure. Aside from basic health measures against COVID-19 prescribed by health authorities, governments must also reject the tobacco industry’s manipulative charity, strengthen tobacco control measures as prescribed in the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and ban the sale and use of e-cigarettes and HTPs,” added Dorotheo.

More than 40 countries already ban the sale of e-cigarettes and HTPs, including five ASEAN countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Singapore, and Thailand. Tobacco use remains one of the world’s leading causes of preventable premature death. In the ASEAN region where half of all adult men smoke, tobacco use kills about 500,000 people annually. Worldwide, tobacco kills more than 8 million people annually.

Wendell C. Balderas, Media and Communications Manager – SEATCA
Email: wendell@seatca.org | Mobile: +63 999 881 2117 ##

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SEATCA is a multi-sectoral non-governmental alliance promoting health and saving lives by assisting ASEAN countries to accelerate and effectively implement the tobacco control measures contained in the WHO FCTC. Acknowledged by governments, academic institutions, and civil society for its advancement of tobacco control in Southeast Asia, the WHO bestowed on SEATCA the World No Tobacco Day Award in 2004 and the WHO Director-General’s Special Recognition Award in 2014.