(SKY NEWS) – All smokers have been urged to quit their habit and cigarette companies have been told to stop producing and selling tobacco during the coronavirus pandemic.
Professor John Newton, Public Health England’s director of health, said “there has never been a more important time to stop smoking, not only for your own health but to protect those around you”.
COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system and smoking can cause damage to the lungs and airways.
PHE officials also highlighted a survey from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, which found smokers who developed COVID-19 were 14 times more likely to develop severe disease.
As well as smoking, the study found age, maximum body temperature on admission and respiratory failure were among other significant factors.
The study took place between 30 December last year and 15 January 2020 and was published in the Chinese Medical Journal.
An additional warning for smokers from PHE is that the virus can be given an easier route of entry into a person’s body during the act of smoking which sees the smoker repeatedly raise their hands to their mouth.
PHE is not alone in calling for people to quit smoking in light of the pandemic.
Experts from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease have said they are “deeply concerned” about coronavirus’ impact on the world’s 1.3 billion smokers – particularly those in poorer countries whose healthcare systems are already overburdened.
Gan Quan, a public health specialist and director of the union, said: “The best thing the tobacco industry can do to fight COVID-19 is to immediately stop producing, marketing and selling tobacco.”
Mr Quan said governments around the world have a “moral imperative” to advise smokers to stop.
“This is the absolute best time to quit smoking,” he said.
The World Health Organisation and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention also warned smoking can expose people to serious complications from COVID-19.