Read this news in English in the Miami Herald.
You are sitting on the coffee terrace in Miami Beach, ready for breakfast. Then comes a cloud of smoke from a smoker sitting at a relatively close table.
The smoke then annoyingly enters his nose.
What appears to be just an irritant could make your asthma worse now raises a question:
Is secondhand smoke a risk for contracting the coronavirus?
Although there are no official studies yet, health experts say it is possible.
At the moment that we are more time away from home, and of course, we eat without a mask, it is a question that must be explained.
Doctors have learned a lot about the coronavirus. It is spread mainly through small droplets that come out of the nose or mouth.
When people exhale smoke from traditional and e-cigarettes, they expel those tiny droplets, just like when they cough, sneeze, or talk. If the smoker has the virus, “exhaling smoke could also potentially spread the virus,” the World Health Organization reported in an email to the Miami Herald.
It is a hypothesis that the WHO team in Geneva is investigating. The team is evaluating the possible link between smoking traditional and e-cigarettes to the virus, including so-called secondhand smoke, a spokeswoman said.
The droplets are also released into the air when people vape and smoke cigars and hookahs, meaning that if one is close enough to smell the smoke, the droplets can likely be inhaled as well.
Is it possible to get it through secondhand smoke?
Although there is still “no direct evidence” that secondhand smoke could transmit the virus, if you put together all the information about what is known about the virus and smoking, “you can make a pretty convincing argument” that there is a risk, said Dr. Mark Block of Memorial Healthcare System. Dr. Block is chief of thoracic surgery at Hollywood Memorial Regional Hospital and a member of the regional board of the American Pulmonology Association in Florida.
Health authorities also believe that the longer a person is exposed to the virus, the greater the chance of getting sick. This means that the risk of contracting the virus from the hands of a smoker, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic, may depend on how long you have been inhaling the smoke.
“When you’re outdoors and you’re around someone, the amount of time you’re exposed to the spray is so limited that it’s probably not a significant risk factor for infection,” Block said. “Now that we are eating outside sometimes you are sitting in the wind of someone who is smoking, so you smell their cigarette smoke. I would not like to be in that environment for a long period of time. ”
Even with the risks, experts say it’s safer to stay outside and maintain social distance than to be indoors with lots of people.
The Miami-Dade guidelines have two rules related to smoking and vaping during the pandemic: One, people can remove their masks to smoke. The other is that cigarettes, vaping devices, hookahs, or anything like that cannot be shared in restaurants.
County guidelines do not clarify whether smoking is prohibited on restaurant terraces. Since July, restaurant patrons have only been able to eat outdoors in Miami-Dade and will continue to do so until dining rooms are allowed on August 31.
Some restaurant owners say they have seen that diners are happy to be able to sit in a restaurant, even if it’s outside, so much so that the secondhand smoke doesn’t seem to bother them much.
“People can look bad, but they haven’t protested,” said Carlos Gazitúa, owner of the Cuban restaurant Sergio’s.
Other owners say they are not risking any problems with diners.
Matt Kuscher, who has four restaurants in the Miami area, bans smoking on his premises, even outdoors. When there is a disagreement between customers, he always takes the side of the non-smokers, a lesson he said he learned when he started in the business.
“We always prefer not to smoke,” Kuscher said. “Normally we ask them not to smoke. We only allow smoking outside if there is only one person on the terrace ”.
Smoking and secondhand smoke have always been deadly and can cause serious long-term health problems like lung cancer.
The coronavirus is just one additional risk that can affect your health much faster, with symptoms generally appearing between 2 and 14 days after exposure to the virus, health authorities say. Most people recover from the COVID-19 virus, but some become seriously ill and need to be hospitalized. Others die from complications related to COVID-19.
Are smokers at a higher risk for COVID-19?
“Sometimes smokers don’t feel the need to quit … Now they have an additional reason to quit. With the virus, smokers are not only at increased risk, they are putting the people around them at risk, ”said Block.
Smokers, even those who have already quit smoking, are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 because smoking affects the lungs, making it harder for the body to fight coronaviruses and other diseases, according to the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention and Control and Diseases. Those who vape may also be at higher risk of getting sick, the WHO said.
“This is actually a great opportunity to quit smoking because the best way to quit is to be motivated and quit at once,” Block said, “not only to minimize your own risk of contracting the disease but to protect people that surround it ”.
How to help someone quit smoking or vaping
one. Talk to them about quitting smoking and let them know that you understand how difficult it is to quit smoking.
two. Help them create a plan. This includes establishing a specific smoking cessation policy and thoroughly cleaning the house (curtains, sofa, clothing, carpet, etc.) to stop the smell of smoke.
3. Get rid of all your cigarettes and put gum in various places around the house, Block said. Every time they feel like smoking, they can chew the gum.
Four. Support people who are trying to quit smoking.
Support services to quit smoking or vaping
▪ Tobacco Free Florida offers free tools and services, like 24/7 access to speak to an expert, and a two-week supply of nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges shipped to your home. For more information visit https://tobaccofreeflorida.com/how-to-quit-tobacco/smoking-cessation-programs/
▪ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend calling 800-QUIT-NOW to speak confidentially with a smoking cessation expert to help create a personalized plan, obtain smoking cessation medications, support and advice. Help is available in multiple languages, including Spanish.
▪ Freedom From Smoking Plus Program of the American Lung Association offers a range of services including interactive sessions and phone support, as well as live chat to help you quit smoking. Although membership in the program is not free, the association says that many employers already offer their program as part of their health and wellness benefits. For more information visit https://www.lung.org/quit-smoking/join-freedom-from-smoking
Ttranslated by Oscar Díaz.