Kolkata: What does the general smoker do when he has the urge for a drag outdoors? He pulls down his mask to the chin or removes it altogether, fetches a cigarette from his pack and lights up. Seldom do such people bother about what they had touched before popping that fag between their lips.
South Eastern Railway (SER) has launched a unique campaign linking smoking to Covid-19. Health experts agree that smokers do face an additional risk of transmitting the virus from their fingers into their mouths unless they take precautions.
For the railways, this is about killing two birds with one stone. Though smoking on railway premises and inside trains has already been banned, checkings are a problem at smaller stations and inside the unreserved coaches of passenger trains.
What adds more to this is the Covid-19 menace as a large number of suburban services have been resumed in various divisions.
Passengers smoking inside toilets of reserved coaches is also a common practice that is extremely difficult to control.
“I had seen something like this on social media and it got me thinking. I thought that we may use our platform to spread awareness among smokers, even if they don’t smoke on railway premises or in trains. We have started a campaign at stations as well. After all, the railway network is not exclusive. Those who stub out their cigarettes before entering the station premises may also carry the virus and pass it on to others,” said Sanjoy Ghosh, CPRO, SER.
Pulmonologists agree that smokers are certainly at a greater risk.
“Their lungs get affected. Covid-19 affects the respiratory system and a smoker is certainly at greater risk of his/her lungs collapsing due to the virus. For smokers, it’s a double whammy. We would certainly advice smokers to give up the habit as soon as possible,” said a professor at IPGMER in Kolkata.
Not all smokers carry their own packs. Many rely on the local ‘panwallah’ for sticks. Even if the smoker is cautious and sanitises his/her hands before lighting up, the same can’t be guaranteed for the person across the counter. After all, cigarettes’ butts come out first from the pack.
“This is certainly a great risk. The smoker may have used a sanitizer but does the kiosk owner do so while pulling out every cigarette? This is very dangerous and and we need to be careful in this regard. My suggestion would be to quit the habit of smoking. I would say the same for those addicted to paan or other items where direct contact is involved,” said Shipra Chatterjee, a doctorḤ who has taught at several medical colleges in the city.