COVID-19: Smoking increases rate of Covid-19 progression

29 May 2020 | Muriel Cozier

The 31 May 2020 is World No Tobacco Day, an initiative of the WHO highlighting the negative impact tobacco has on health. The day was established in 1987 by the WHO’s member states to draw global attention to the preventable diseases that tobacco causes.

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have concluded that smoking significantly worsens COVID-19.  In a meta-analysis of studies that included 11 590 people who contracted COVID -19, researchers found that among those with the virus who smoked or were smokers, the risk of disease progressions was nearly double that of non-smokers. It was also noted that current or former smokers had more acute or critical conditions.

In their analysis the researchers indentified 19 peer-reviewed scientific papers that included data on smoking behaviour and severity of COVID-19. The studies from China, Korea and the US were mostly based on hospitalised patients.

Of the 11 590 patients identified for the study, 2 133 experienced disease progression and 731 had a history of smoking. Among smokers, 218 patients (29.8%) experienced diseases progression, compared with 17.6 per cent of non-smoking patients. Smoking and e-cigarette use increases the risk and severity of pulmonary infections because of damage to upper airways and a decrease in pulmonary immune function in general, the researchers said.

Publishing the findings in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, Stanton A Glantz, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the UCSF Centre for Tobacco Control Research and Education said ‘Smoking is associated with substantially higher risk of COVID-19 progression. This finding suggests that California’s ongoing strong tobacco control measures that have lowered smoking may, together with the state’s other strong public health interventions, be contributing to California’s efforts to thwart the effect of COVID-19.’

Nicotine & Tobacco Research: DOI:10.1093/ntr/ntaa082

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