Statement of Leonce SESSOU, Executive Secretary, African Tobacco Control Alliance (ATCA)
Lomé 20 April 2020
During this difficult time when the world struggles to deal with the corona virus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the African tobacco control community has noted with dismay, that tobacco multinationals are using the crisis to engage in activities that either help to clean their image, or challenge governments for restricting or completely banning the sale of tobacco products to reduce the effects of the disease. This practice further complicates things for Africa, which added to the COVID-19 pandemic, is dealing with other ills like malaria, HIV, non-communicable diseases and poverty.
It is heartbreaking to know that despite several studies ascertaining that smoking is most likely associated with the negative progression and adverse outcomes of COVID-19i, and experts warning based on studies, that vaping could render individuals more vulnerable to the disease, the tobacco industry still sets out to push for the availability of its products during imposed lockdowns. To date, tobacco use is known to have a considerable impact on lung health being associated with several respiratory diseasesii. Smoking is also detrimental to the immune system and its responsiveness to infections, making smokers more vulnerable to infectious diseasesiii. Previous studies have even shown that smokers are twice more likely than non-smokers to contract influenza and have more severe symptoms, while smokers were also noted to have higher mortality in the previous coronavirus (MERS-CoV) outbreakiv,v.