Claiming that a ban on tobacco sales, smoking, and spitting in public places would help mitigate the spread of Covid-19 in the anticipated third wave and future waves, cancer survivors from Bengaluru Tuesday urged the Centre and the Karnataka government to take suitable measures to do so.
In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, and Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, cancer survivors from the city cited findings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that smokers are at a high risk of developing severe complications when confronted with coronavirus.
“Smokers are at a greater risk for hospital admission, need for ventilators, ICUs, and even death due to Covid-19. Chewing tobacco products increases saliva production and when the user spits it out, he/she spreads germs and viruses,” Nalini Satyanarayana, a cancer survivor, and a health activist noted.
She added that people who are nearby could inhale it or touch the contaminated surface, get infected, and thereby fuel Covid-19 spread.
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Meanwhile, oncologist Dr Vishal Rao, who is also a member of Karnataka’s High Power Committee on Tobacco Control, highlighted that Covid-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks and social distancing cannot be followed in designated smoking areas (DSAs). “While the current provisions of The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) allow DSAs at restaurants, pubs, bars, and airports, droplets can survive in such closed chambers with them having a possibility to become super-spreaders of Covid-19,” he said.
At the same time, Dr Vijayalakshmi Balekundri, Honorary Advisor of Consortium for Tobacco Free Karnataka, said the state should enforce the ban on spitting in public places, which is already imposed, by slapping fines on the violators. “As the state is gradually unlocking, it is the right time for the government to consider banning DSAs and to amend COTPA,” she said.
Among the major demands put forth by the survivors are announcing a ban on all public smoking areas at hotels, bars, clubs and airports and prohibiting hookah bars. They have also urged the government to introduce licensing for tobacco sales (vendor licensing) to reduce the accessibility and exposure to tobacco products. “Chewing tobacco products should also be prohibited to curb public spitting resulting in an increased rate of transmission of Covid-19,” the survivors added.
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