MADRID, July 7 (Xinhua) -- Pilar Aparicio, the Spanish Health Ministry's director general of public health, quality and innovation, explained to Xinhua how smoking can worsen the effects of the coronavirus and make it easier for the virus to spread in social situations.
Last week, Spain's Public Health Commission published a document entitled "Position on consuming tobacco and related substances during the COVID-19 pandemic," which highlighted the risk posed by smoking and vaping during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In an exclusive interview with Xinhua Tuesday, Aparicio said that under normal circumstances "smoking tobacco is always a risk for health, because our lungs are designed to breathe fresh air."
"When we inhale a substance that goes directly to our lungs the risk is not just for our lungs, as these substances also go into the blood and damage the cardiovascular system and other systems in the body."
Studies have shown that smokers are more likely to suffer serious complications from COVID-19 than non-smokers, but Aparicio warned that is not the only threat smoking poses in the current crisis.
"Alongside the fact that people who smoke run the risk of a more serious case of COVID-19, we have to consider that smoking means you are moving your face mask, taking your hands to your mouth and touching your mouth, and when you exhale you breathe out the globules that can contain the virus and aid its transmission," she said.
The official explained that the circumstances in which people usually smoke -- often in social situations and outside bars -- is another factor to consider.
While smoking, "you also relax the social distancing measures. We think it is important to avoid smoking when we are with other people and when we are in a social situation," she said.
"We recommend that you do not smoke in areas in collective use because of the risks involved," she concluded.