Turkey implements nationwide ban on smoking amid warning over its impact on pandemic
Scientists have long established that smoking is a deadly habit, but in the era of the coronavirus, it poses an even greater threat to public health. A member of the Health Ministry’s Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board says cigarette smoke helps virus particles from an infected person spread farther. His warning comes one day after Turkey introduced a smoking ban in outdoor spaces across all provinces in a bid to quell the rise in COVID-19 cases, Trend reports citing Daily Sabah.
According to an Interior Ministry circular sent to governorates across the country, smoking will be banned in most outdoor places, including crowded streets, mass transit stops and town squares.
The move came hours after the governorates of Istanbul and Izmir separately announced the smoking ban for their respective cities, with the Interior Ministry expanding the ban nationwide. Those violating the ban face a fine of TL 900 ($116).
Associate professor Afşin Emre Kayıpmaz of the Coronavirus Scientific Advisory Board said virus particles travel far when people talk, cough, shout or laugh loudly. “Similarly, people who smoke emit breath more prominently and the smoke they emit has the possibility of acting as a carrier for these particles. You have to keep a distance from smokers. The normal 'social' distance between people not smoking should be 2 meters (6.6 feet), and if one of them smokes, this should be at least 4 meters,” Kayıpmaz told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Thursday.
He noted that people tend to smoke in groups during breaks at workplaces. “You have to remove your mask while smoking and if you smoke together with other people, this increases the likelihood of infection. The smoking ban is necessary for this reason,” he said.
Besides the risk of carrying particles via smoke, cigarettes pose a risk to smokers in terms of their own health. “Smoking can damage lung texture due to its carcinogen ingredients and can cause vascular diseases. Studies show the coronavirus disease is more damaging for smokers. Thus, it has both a direct and indirect impact on the pandemic. If you have to smoke, you should at least smoke alone and keep your distance from others more than you do so while not smoking,” he warned.
While Turkey has avoided resorting to the strictest measures, the increasing number of infections forced the government’s hand to bring certain restrictions back. On Tuesday, the Istanbul and Ankara governorates announced a curfew for citizens aged 65 and above, only allowing them to go outside from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The total number of COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the outbreak in March exceeded the 400,000 threshold and fatalities now stand at 11,145, with the total number of recoveries having reached 344,613.
“Our health workers are doing everything they can to keep the patient loads in our hospitals at a manageable level. We can only defeat this outbreak by working together,” Health Minister Fahrettin Koca wrote, shortly after the announcement of daily figures on Wednesday.