The Jakarta Post
The majority of cigarette smokers in Indonesia are skeptical about evidence that suggests they are at higher risk of COVID-19, a survey conducted by the National Commission on Tobacco Control (NCTC) has revealed.
The survey was conducted nationwide from May 15 until June 15, involving a total of 612 respondents, both smokers and non-smokers.
“As many as 63.6 percent of smoker respondents were unconvinced that cigarette smokers were more prone to COVID-19,” the NCTC researcher, Krisna Puji Rahmayanti, said on Tuesday as quoted by kompas.com.
“The majority of them were also doubtful that cigarette smoking could exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms,” she added.
In contrast, more than 80 percent of non-smoker respondents were inclined to believe that smoking could elevate one’s health risks if they contracted COVID-19.
Furthermore, the commission also alerted the public to the danger of smoking and asked the government to expand its public awareness campaign to discourage smoking, especially at home.
They also called on the COVID-19 task force to include tobacco consumption control in its COVID-19 mitigation efforts, suggesting that the country should raise the cigarette tax and sales price.
Health officials and the World Health Organization (WHO) have previously urged people to quit smoking, especially during the pandemic, as studies provide ample evidence that smoking tobacco can weaken the immune system and damage the lungs, where the virus does it damage.
“Smokers are at high risk of heart disease and respiratory disease, which are high risk factors for developing severe or critical disease with COVID-19,” Navaratnasamy Paranietharan, a representative of the WHO Indonesia, said last March.
Even though there are currently no peer-reviewed studies that directly link smoking with increased hospitalization for COVID-19, a WHO scientific brief released in June stated that “27 observational studies found that smokers constituted 1.4-18.5% of hospitalized adults.”
Meanwhile, a study published on April 15 in the Journal of Medical Virology titled “The impact of COPD and smoking history on the severity of COVID‐19: A systematic review and meta‐analysis”, suggested that heavy smokers were twice as likely to experience severe outcomes of the disease.
Smoking was also identified as a contributing factor to case severity among patients with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS) back in 2012, according to a study.
The 2018 Basic Health Survey (Riskesdas) revealed that the proportion of smokers among people aged 15 years and above was 33.8 percent in 2018, the highest rate in the world. The prevalence of smoking among males was 62.9 percent and 4.8 percent among females.
The 2018 data also revealed that there were 67 million active smokers in the country of 270 million people. (trn)