Updated: September 29, 2021 8:40:15 am
Spare a thought for the smokers. Last year, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic, researchers — first in France, later in China and India — published studies that seemed to indicate smokers were at less risk of contracting Covid, and when they did, experienced less severe symptoms. In France, there was reportedly a rush on tobacconists by non-smokers hoping to get a little extra protection. For smokers everywhere, here, at last, was a justification — as much for themselves as for those they have been shunned by for the smell and cloud of carcinogens they spread — to take another drag. Now, unfortunately, they have been robbed of the only silver lining that pierced the haze and the tar all too briefly.
A recent study in England has collated observational and genetic data on Covid-19 and tobacco use and found that compared to those who had never smoked, smokers were about 80 per cent more likely to be hospitalised after contracting the virus. A section of scientists has questioned the earlier studies, claiming that some of the researchers had ties to the tobacco industry.
Not surprisingly, the disappointment among tobacco addicts is palpable. Unlike other substances — alcohol, marijuana and more notorious narcotics — smoking doesn’t really get you high. The social cost for the addiction is hardly commensurate to the pleasure — train and plane journeys have you jonesing, you’re shunned to dark corners outside bars and sometimes, even from your own homes to service the need without bothering others. All this, while it burns a huge hole in your pocket and you slowly but surely watch your health deteriorate. From France, the birthplace of existentialism, there was hope that smoking had a purpose. From England, the birthplace of utilitarianism, that hope has been taken away.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on September 29, 2021 under the title ‘Up in smoke’.
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