Smokers are 14 times more likely to contract the novel coronavirus compared to those who do not smoke, according to the head of a Turkish anti-addiction group.
"Using tobacco and tobacco products increases the risk of catching the coronavirus. Therefore, avoiding all addictive substances plays an important role in protecting ourselves against the virus,” professor Mücahit Öztürk, president of the anti-addiction group Turkish Green Crescent, also known as Yeşilay, told Anadolu Agency.
Öztürk underscored that as addictions seriously harm physical health and weaken the immune system, they could lead to a higher risk of death due to the negative impacts they have on the treatment process.
"A weak immune system poses a threat to your health since it delays the treatment process and makes treatment difficult during the epidemic, even if you occasionally use addictive substances,” he said.
Smoking can cause damage to the lungs and block the cough reflex so viruses and bacteria remain stuck to the airways and lungs, which could lead to serious infections, Öztürk noted.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means fingers are in contact with the lips, which increases the possibility of hand-to-mouth transmission of the virus.
Similar to cigarettes, hookah smoking also raises serious hygiene concerns as many people can smoke at the same time from one hookah, Öztürk said.
Although a disposable hookah mouthpiece is used as a hygiene measure, he said, "smoking hookahs, especially shared ones, poses a risk for the transmission of infectious diseases.”
Advisory hotline amid coronavirus
Utilizing its century of experience, Yeşilay began providing psychological support to those affected by the deadly coronavirus.
"People can call our new psychological advisory hotline 444-9801. The hotline will provide free services to people who experience intense anxiety due to the coronavirus and develop psychological disorders,” Öztürk said.
One hundred psychologists will give advice over the phone and conduct online conversation sessions, he added.
"We aim to ensure that our citizens can get free services by calling our hotline and help them to cope with this difficult process,” Öztürk said.
Meanwhile, the addiction counseling centers, called YEDAM, continue to operate, he added.
YEDAM helps people who suffer from tobacco, alcohol, drug and internet addiction, he said, adding that people can get psychological and social support by calling the advisory hotline 444-7975.
Never too late to give up
Öztürk urged addicts to quit their bad habits during the epidemic for themselves and their loved ones.
"The human body is programmed to recover from the moment you stop smoking,” he said, while explaining the benefits of quitting smoking.
"In two hours after the last cigarette is smoked, nicotine begins to leave your body. The heart rate and blood pressure drop and return to normal in six hours,” Öztürk said.
"After just 12 hours, the body cleanses itself from the carbon monoxide. In two days, people may notice a heightened sense of smell and a more vivid taste," he said.
"Blood circulation continues to improve in two to 12 weeks, which increases endurance for physical activities such as walking and running. At three to nine weeks, problems such as coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing are reduced as the lungs become stronger,” he added.
Spread of COVID-19
After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the virus has spread to at least 185 countries and territories. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a pandemic.
Turkey on Wednesday confirmed 115 more deaths from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, bringing the country's death toll to 1,518. The total number of registered coronavirus cases in the country surged to 69,392.
More than 2 million cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll at more than 137,000 and nearly 517,000 recoveries, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
Despite the rising number of cases, most people who contract the virus suffer mild symptoms before making a recovery.