Dr Kavita Jadoo

There has been an increase of cigarette smokers visiting the country’s cessation clinics, set up by the Ministry of Health, as they seek to quit, to make themselves less susceptible to contracting the coronavirus.

This was revealed yesterday by primary care physician Kavita Jadoo, during an interview on CNC3’s The Morning Brew as the world gets ready to observe World No Tobacco Day on May 31.

Jadoo who heads the cessation clinic at the Arima Health Facility, said given COVID-19 was known to attack the respiratory tract and being cognizant of the damage smoking does to one’s lungs, smokers were becoming more willing to quit the bad habit.

She stressed because smoking can damage the air sacs in the lungs, diseases like emphysema and bronchitis could occur that made smokers more susceptible to infections thus making it easier to contract viruses like COVID-19.

“It actually increases your susceptibility to the harmful effects of COVID-19 and it can also increase mortality,” she warned.

In light of this, Jadoo said the clinic has seen many patients taking the steps to stop smoking.

“I have seen an increasing number of patients coming into the clinics wanting to stop and this is actually what prompted the World Health Organisation to come up with this year’s theme,” Jadoo noted.

This year World No Tobacco Day’s theme is “Commit to quit.” According to the World Health Organisation, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to millions of tobacco users saying they want to quit.

Launched in December 2020 WHO rolled out the “Quitters’ Diaries” campaign in which aims to help one million people quit smoking.

Jadoo explained cigarette smoking was deemed hazardous because of the 7,000 plus chemicals it contained. She said 250 chemicals of the 7000 were extremely hazardous and 49 of the 250 chemicals were known to cause cancer. She revealed smoking caused 80 per cent of lung cancer. And was also responsible for 20 per cent of all other cancers including cancer of the kidney, pancreas, and stomach. It was also a contributor to cardiovascular disease.

Meanwhile, the manager of the Tobacco Control Unit at the Ministry of Health, Gerren Collymore, who also spoke during yesterday’s interview, warned the popular vaping which was now thought to be a better alternative to cigarette smoking, was equally harmful to one’s health and could even encourage addiction.

“Studies have shown from WHO, that it actually encourages persons in dual-use, meaning that some persons both smoke cigarettes and tobacco products and also vape,” he explained.

Collymore said there were a lot of harmful chemicals released during vaping and some were still being discovered.

“In 2019 in the United States, a lot of the lung illnesses were attributed to vaping, where they found dangerous chemicals and TAC (total active cannabinoid) which is linked to cannabis.”

He said nicotine, a dangerous and highly addictive chemical found in tobacco products was also found in vapors.

Collymore said what was unfortunate; vaping was being targeted at young people as something cool and safe to do.

He noted the Ministry of Health had identified the need to regulate vaping to protect this demographic.

Speaking on the activities, the Ministry of Health planned to host, to commemorate the observance, Collymore said a year-long campaign had been initiated, by the Ministry of Health which will include a series of educational webinars on the dangers of smoking and how to get help. It will also focus on the expansion of its cessation clinics.