While the coronavirus is mainly spread from person to person, recent research shows that the virus can remain viable in the environment for hours. Therefore, when smokers exhale, they can leave a potentially infectious aerosol into the air that could infect others. While secondhand smoke may not directly cause COVID-19, that exhalation can be contagious, say experts.
"Not only are they potentially spreading virus by not wearing a mask, they are blowing these droplets to the people around them to potentially get infected," said Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer for the American Lung Association, according to Fox News.
A study published in March in the New England Journal of Medicine stated that aerosolized coronavirus particles can live up to three hours in the air, meaning that they could infect people long after being expelled. Now that we know these particles are infectious, wearing a mask in public becomes even more critical.
But smokers may not only be infecting other people with the virus, they may also be harming their health in other ways. According to Fox News, secondhand smoke reduces lung function, can trigger asthma symptoms, and causes heart and lung disease as well as cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health."
In other bad news, researchers pointed out that even when secondhand smoke clears, it can leave an infectious residue known as thirdhand smoke that settles on surfaces that can also harbor COVID-19.
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