‘Lung changes in those who use vapes on CT look like a snowstorm’
The popularity of trendy ways of smoking is growing among the youth
Key Tatarstan experts in the fight against smoking are unhappy with the anti-tobacco campaign’s pace. Though the number of smokers anyway falls, noted vice chief doctor for medical affairs of the Republican Drug Clinic, chief narcologist of the Tatarstan Ministry of Health Care Rezeda Khayeva. At the same time, the popularity of vapes and other trendy ways of smoking seriously increased. Some health workers spreading fakes about the benefit of smoking in the fight against coronavirus complicate the fight too. According to Kazan’s chief pulmonologist Rustem Khamitov, some doctors in red zones of COVID-19 hospitals of the republic believe: “We don’t fall ill because we smoke!”
The chief narcologist of the Tatarstan Ministry of Health Care cited the WHO’s data and claimed that up to 7 million people still die from tobacco smoking a year. 6 million of them are smokers and former tobacco consumers, another nearly a million are passive smokers. Apart from the direct threat to the life of the Russian population, this is a huge burden for the health care system. To prevent this, Russia joined the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as early as 2008, took a set of measures to protect its citizens from tobacco in 2010. In 2013, the basic law on the protection of citizens from the impact of tobacco smoke was created. As a consequence, of a third of Russians (30,9%) officially consumed tobacco in 2016, in 2019, their number fell to 24,2% (Editor’s note: or almost 30 million people).
“The number of passive smokers reduce twice, and the availability of tobacco products also fell two times. It is believed that the anti-tobacco law works, the behavioural rules work. However, the statistics don’t allow registering all cases of addiction to tobacco. The consumption of chewing and smelling tobacco is starting to spread. New types of products, including electronic cigarettes, vapes, appeared. The popularity of vapes and iQOS (heat-not-burn tobacco products) is growing among the youth,” Khayeva said and noted that the share of consumers of these smoking methods among young Russians from 18 to 24 years is 19,1% today.
How COPD defeated lung cancer in deaths
According to the chief drug therapist of Tatarstan, there is a popular opinion that collective hookah smoking is safe. As Rezeda Khayeva said, it is more dangerous than cigarettes because besides nicotine and other substances, nitrogen oxide also impacts the lungs when smoking hookah. While hookah smokers are subjected to the same risks as cigarette smokers, the expert assured the audience.
Tatarstan health care workers have been coping with tobacco addiction in drug clinics for five years, the clinics have offices helping people to stop tobacco smoking where a narcologist, psychiatrist and pulmonologist provide them help. By the way, a new federal order of the Ministry of Health Care, which came to light in September 2021, already officially permitted to use medication and psychotherapeutic methods to get rid of smokers’ tobacco addiction. Voluntarily, of course. Nevertheless, the number of those who sought such help in these offices cannot help but make us sad: last year, they totalled 768 people, this year, the number has been a bit more than 500.
Famous pulmonologist Rustem Khamitov also claimed that the fight against smoking in Russia nowadays cannot be named effective. According to him, not everybody knows that smoking certainly leads to chronic bronchitis, which in turn will develop into a severe disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Before the pandemic, it ranked third in death causes. And 80% of deaths from COPD are conditioned by tobacco smoking. In fact, a death from COPD is twice more often than trachea or lung cancer.
By the way, according to Kazan oncologist Konstantin Trofimov, an employee of the Republican Clinical Cancer Hospital, his unit sees over 1,200 people with a malignant pathology of the chest a year. And it is those who were in general permitted to be operated. 35% of annually detected lung cancer cases are diagnosed in stage four. While 80% of patients who end up in the cancer unit are smokers, he claimed.
Growth of fakes that smoking protects from coronavirus
The worst thing, Rustem Khamitov complained, is that the pandemic has led to a growth in the number of fakes that smoking somehow protects from coronavirus. The pulmonologist sees an active marketing job of tobacco companies who either spread or support them as the cause of the fakes. According to the chief lung expert of the Kazan Health Care Office it was known long before coronavirus that precisely smoking people were vulnerable to viral respiratory infections, coronavirus is one of them.
“I will say with sadness that I have heard doctors working today in the red zone [where severe COVID-19 patients are treated] talk about the benefit of smoking. They looked me in the eye, knew me and my opinion claim: ‘We don’t fall ill because we smoke.’ Colleagues, if we are talking about doctors who smoke and think they don’t fall ill... First of all, all health workers, with no exception, have already fallen ill in the red zone. Those who contact coronavirus are immunised every day,” Khamitov shared.
As the expert said, the cause of the confidence about the “benefit of smoking” is popular among doctors psychoneurological. It is a kind of self-training: people cannot refuse a bad habit, to justify themselves they assure themselves that smoking somehow protects them from something. Meanwhile, the chief Kazan lung physician says that smoking additionally intensifies the dangerous damage on the lungs in coronavirus. Also, it increases the number of possible heart strokes and cognitive skills after COVID-19 if the former red-zone patient keeps smoking.
How smoking worsens post-COVID-19 syndrome
“Not the treatment of COVID-19 during the acute stage of the disease but the post-COVID-19 syndrome became even a more topical problem today. Patients who recovered from COVID-19 who at times are released with a serious lung damage, undiagnosed myocarditis become a problem prevailing the problems of severe patients,” Rustem Khamitov warned.
The pulmonologist was separately indignant about the popular opinion the same tobacco industry actively pushes, as he thinks, that vapes aren’t dangerous and “not as dangerous” as ordinary cigarettes. Khamitov is sure that vapes are so widely spread among the youth because tobacco companies don’t want to lose their income and cannot actively resist the anti-tobacco propaganda have to replace one supply channel with another, that’s to say, replace cigarettes with vapes. The first data of European specialists, members of the European Respiratory Society has appeared in the last two years that the regular use of e-cigarettes “is extremely harmful.”
“Here the notions are substituted. Of course, they prefer comparing the harm with usual cigarettes. And of course, the comparisons will be in favour of vapes. But it is a very good marketing approach. Vape smoking anyway seriously raises the probability of developing COPD. Smokers develop obliterative bronchiolitis. It is an irreversible and incurable disease. The change of the lungs on the CT looks like a snowstorm in those who regularly use vapes,” Khamitov claimed comparing tobacco nicotine and vape smoking with the speed difference when driving a car 200 km an hour or 150 km, that’s to say, “both are acceptable for driving.”
Khamitov believes that if the trend isn’t broken, it isn’t made unfashionable, most youngsters who are starting to smoke will start with e-cigarettes and iQOS. Tobacco companies almost transfer new consumers to other tobacco delivery options.