COVID-19 in Smokeless Tobacco Habitués: Increased Susceptibility and Transmission

Cureus. 2020 Jun 25;12(6):e8824. doi: 10.7759/cureus.8824.


As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues to sweep across the globe, the world is responding by implementing public awareness campaigns, social distancing measures, and other preventive strategies to arrest the spread of this lethal disease. Infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) exacts a heavy toll on patients with existing comorbidities. Smokeless tobacco (SLT) consumption is of particular concern in countries in South Asia with high population densities, as it facilitates exposure to SARS-CoV-2 within or between communities by the act of public spitting. Salivary droplets generated in this act are a potential threat because they can transmit this airborne infection. Moreover, large gatherings at tobacco retail outlets, frequent hand-to-mouth contact, and sharing of apparatus by SLT habitués could also aid in increasing the spread of SARS-CoV-2. SLT-induced higher expression of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptors along with the presence of furin in the oral mucosa and dysfunctional immune responses among SLT habitués increase viral dissemination and an individual's susceptibility to COVID-19. Issuing rigorous regulations to restrict the use of various forms of SLT products and the obnoxious act of spitting in public can assist in arresting the spread of COVID-19. Widespread education campaigns enlightening the community regarding the adverse effects of SLT consumption and its relationship with COVID-19, along with providing effective assistance to quit for those who are addicted, would decrease the spread of COVID-19.

Keywords: covid-19; immunity; saliva; smokeless tobacco.

Publication types

  • Review