With a rapid surge in the number of COVID-19 patients, Turkey has recently implemented a series of measures to stem the spread of the virus, including a nationwide smoking ban in public spaces. World Health Organization (WHO) experts and the president of the anti-addiction group, the Turkish Green Crescent, welcomed the ban but warned smokers about the likelihood of experiencing more severe symptoms from the deadly virus compared with nonsmokers.
In a circular to governors in the nation’s 81 provinces, the Interior Ministry announced on Nov. 11 that a smoking ban would be introduced in “areas like avenues, streets and stops where citizens gather in crowds.”
The head of WHO’s European Centre for Preparedness for Humanitarian and Health Emergencies, Irshad Ali Shaikh, said the “action is unpopular, but inaction is deadly.” The doctor told Anadolu Agency (AA) that “it is only prudent to look at those factors” that may potentially slow the pace of virus spread.
With masks, personal hygiene and social distancing already implemented globally and in Turkey, Shaikh said experts are now “looking at any plausible factor that may contribute to further spread.” While explaining that the research on smoking and COVID-19 relation is ongoing, he said virus particles may travel further through air exhaled by smokers.
He cited a case in the U.S. where a member of a choir in early March unknowingly infected more than 55 people from the group. He said the “laws of physics” could explain the super spread at the choir practice. Similar to the choir incident, smokers exhale with extra force compared with regular breathing.