Quitting smoking in COVID19, the role of oral physicians

Quitting smoking in COVID19, the role of oral physicians
Representational ImageSource: Tumisu from Pixabay

“Adolescence, psychological irresponsibility and free availability of cigarettes were my reasons to start smoking and I believe it’s just either your bad luck to start it and your greatest fortune to give up smoking,” said a friend who finally stopped smoking nearly 12 years after he started.

A decade ago, it was considered a cool thing. I smoked 2,3 packets of cigarettes a day and blamed heavy work schedules, budging stress at home, spurring societal pressures, lack of good friend circle etc to my smoking addiction. I struggled to keep smoking out of my life till I suffered a heart attack. Surprisingly it wasn't easy but it seemed worth it as I finally ended up choosing my life over smoking. It takes extreme adversity and audacity to come to the fore with our wrongdoings.

This story would seem relatable to most of smokers as smoking, it's addiction and its Ill effects are common among smokers and in later stages of life it circumvents to a common end and many of these smokers aren't lucky enough to live many years than expected or even if they do, it's crippled with misfortunes.

No tobacco messages over every media have not been merely an awareness campaign but sour reminder of the fact that smoking tobacco in any form has been leading cause of death and also of many respiratory disorders TB, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease etc which people have either ignored or related it's cause to pollution, climate, hereditary or even to superstitions.

With COVID19 infection peaking every day and killing hundreds and thousands , it wouldn't be hard to suggest that most of the morbidity and casualties arising out of covid19 pandemic are those with underlying lung diseases and consequently it must not be hard for wise to connect these dots of misfortune that exist because of smoking tobacco.

For those who follow and believe facts and statistics more than my story, it's prudent to include a study titled " Global burden of 369 diseases and injuries in 204 countries and territories, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019",published in October 2020 lists COPD as 2nd leading cause of death in india while other study published in The Lancet medical journal cites Smoking as one of leading causes of COPD in India. Subsequently it shouldn't be hard enough to draw a logical inference from these statistics.

Smoking tobacco in any form is dangerous and it doesn't need any peer reviewed studies to substantiate a view that smokers can be more vulnerable to contracting Covid19 infections as it's proven beyond disbelief that smokers are at high risk because of high incidence of respiratory infections, high prevalence of progressives respiratory problems, impaired lung functions due to prolonged smoking, weakened immunity due to rusty smokers lungs.

WHO's theme slogan of "commit to quit smoking" Shouldn't have come at a better time than this year as the world reels under covid19 infections, stick to new habits , adapt to newer strategies and commit to finding ways to make life happy and healthier. Smokers have the best chance of their life to commit themselves to quit smoking.

They must not hesitate to seek professional help from oral physicians, oral surgeons, call on Toll free tobacco quitting service, seek help from Tobacco cessation centers, ask for Nicotine replacement therapies and all other remedies that are available with the health department.

Unfortunately Kashmir having the distinction of being the smoking capital of North India has dearth of oral physicians, oral and maxillofacial surgeons at PHC, CHC and even district hospitals, who could make a paradigm and pragmatic change in smoking cessation program. Their prime importance should be gauged from the fact that they can be highly useful in early diagnosis and treatment planning of new covid infections like the recent epidemic of Mucormycosis. It is a fungal infection which becomes highly active and pathogenic in patients who are on long term steroids or immune-compromised, cancer patients on radiotherapy chemotherapy, uncontrollable diabetes and other debilitating diseases.

Role of dental surgeons in general and oral physicians oral maxillofacial surgeons in particular becomes essential given the fact that the first manifestation of this disease lies in facial and oral tissue. Ischemia necrosis of oral tissue, denudation of bone of oral cavity accompanied with ulcers in lips, mucosa of other oral tissues. So there is no denying the essential role of oral health specialists in this pandemic as otherwise it's projected to be. They can serve as first responders in diagnosis of this disease at an earliest treatable stage.

Lastly,COVID19 has been devastating and destructive all around. Letting quitting smoking be the good possible outcome of this pandemic as the world prays and seeks an end to this human suffering.

Dr Tahir Ahmad is MDS in Oral and Maxillo-facial Surgery

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