The act of smoking means fingers are in contact with the lips and increases the chance of hand-to-mouth transmission [File: Jerome Gilles/Getty Images]

Smokers are 14 times more likely to contract coronavirus compared with those who do not, the head of a Turkish anti-addiction group told Anadolu Agency.

Professor Mucahit Ozturk, president of anti-addiction group Turkish Green Crescent, on Thursday urged those who smoke to quit to protect themselves from the contagion. 

“Using tobacco and tobacco products increases the risk of catching the coronavirus, therefore, avoiding all addictive substances plays an important role in protecting ourselves against the virus,” Ozturk said.

Ozturk underscored smoking weakens the immune system and has negative impacts on coronavirus treatment.

“A weak immune system poses a threat to your health since it delays the treatment process and makes treatment difficult during the epidemic, even if you occasionally use addictive substances,” he said.

“Smoking can cause damage to the lungs and block the cough reflex so viruses and bacteria could stick to the airways and lungs, which could lead to serious infections.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also said smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to the virus as fingers are in contact with the lips, which increases the possibility of hand-to-mouth transmission.

According to research by Chinese doctors, cited by the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, acute smokers were more at risk of dying than elderly people.

“The human body is programmed to recover from the moment you stop smoking,” Ozturk said.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China last December, COVID-19 has spread to at least 185 countries and territories.

More than two million cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll at more than 137,000 and 517,000 recoveries, according to data compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University.