Editor’s Note: Kelly Henning is the director of public health at Bloomberg Philanthropies. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. 

Protecting people from the dangers of tobacco products — and holding tobacco companies accountable for their global actions — is a critical component in the fight against Covid-19.

Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop severe complications with Covid-19, according to a review of studies by public health experts convened by the World Health Organization. And, a new study of 169 hospitals in Asia, Europe and North America found that smokers have nearly double the likelihood of in-hospital death than non-smokers.

But just as important, tobacco use — a pandemic in its own right — is costly to individual smokers and to society. Smoking kills more than 8 million people a year, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. These deaths are preventable and come mostly from cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic lung disease and diabetes — conditions that also contribute to high rates of Covid-19 mortality. The human price is exacerbated by the economic toll in health care costs and lost productivity costs that reaches $1.4 trillion annually worldwide.

We’ll be better able to fight this pandemic, and future ones, if we commit ourselves to improving the world’s health. Helping smokers quit will reduce the amount of people with underlying conditions that could make them more susceptible to Covid-19 and other infections. At the same time, to adequately fund efforts to fight coronavirus and prepare for unknown health emergencies to come, we must lower health care costs for households and health care systems and shift our economy away from production and purchase of harmful products, such as tobacco.

Read the full opinion: CNN News


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