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Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, is warning that tobacco use increases the risk of contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19) or severe complications associated with the disease.

As such, he is appealing for persons who use tobacco to quit the habit.

Dr. Tufton, in his World No Tobacco Day message on Sunday (May 31), pointed out that although new discoveries are continuously being made about COVID-19, there is enough to know that smokers are at high risk.

“While we do not know everything there is to know about the disease, we do know that for persons who smoke or otherwise use tobacco, COVID-19 poses an additional threat,” he said.

“We know that smokers are at higher risk for developing severe disease associated with COVID-19. Smoking increases the risk and severity of pulmonary infections because of damage to upper airways and a decrease in pulmonary immune function,” he added.

Minister Tufton said that smoking poses other problems in terms of how the virus enters the body.

“Putting the fingers to the mouth makes those who use tobacco products such as cigarettes, vaping products and water pipes more vulnerable to COVID-19,” he said. He noted that using water pipes involves sharing mouthpieces, which could also facilitate the transmission of COVID-19.

“More research needs to be done before we fully understand this deadly disease, but on this World No Tobacco Day, of one thing we are certain: ‘COVID-19 is no joke and it gets worse with smoke’ he said, in reference to the local theme for World No Tobacco Day.

“We implore all Jamaicans to protect their health and maintain a healthy physical distance from tobacco and nicotine,” he added.

Persons who need help to quit smoking are encouraged to contact the National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) at 876-564-HELP (4357) or the Ministry of Health and Wellness at 888-ONE-LOVE (663-5683).

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