Tobacco Industry targeting the lives of people during COVID-19 pandemic

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Islamabad:    (Parliament Times)  Tobacco industry has been actively involved in promoting and spreading false information through researches the benefits of nicotine patches that is a product of tobacco and smoking as a weapon that protects from COVID-19, stated Mr. Azhar Saleem, CEO Human Development Foundation (HDF) in an online session. He further stated that tobacco industry has not shunned this practice and is using the current pandemic to its benefits to increase sales.

He shared that two recent studies were published, with the argument that nicotine use can protect users against COVID-19 and also serve as a treatment option for the virus. Furthermore, a press release by one of the tobacco company stated that they are engaged in the preparation of vaccine for COVID-19 by using tobacco. He stated that the studies have major flaws as they are not peer reviewed and sample size of one of the studies is not representative of larger population. It is presumed that these studies are being conducted under the influence of tobacco industry.

In response to these studies, the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) and its Tobacco Control Cell has stated their stance that nicotine patches do not protect against COVID-19. Nicotine is a derivative of tobacco which is harmful for the health of users, specially their lungs and is proven time and again through decades of authentic researches. COVID-119 virus attacks the lungs and if it attacks a smoker whose lungs are already damaged and diseased due to tobacco use, the amount of damage to the lungs will increase manifold thereby reducing the chances of survival. It is therefore ridiculous to say that tobacco use can possibly protect against this virus.

Mr. Azhar Saleem stated that due to the false information by tobacco industry, there has been an increase in tobacco purchases by people to protect themselves from COVID-19. He urged the government on behalf of tobacco control activists to take strict actions against tobacco industry and ban the sale of tobacco products during this pandemic to reduce contraction rates and reduce the already increasing health burden on economy. He also suggested that the Government should seriously consider banning of tobacco growing in Pakistan by giving better alternatives and incentives to the farmers for getting rid of the hazards of tobacco use on long term basis.

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