cigarettes smoking clovid-19

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Smoking: Some studies suggest nicotine ‘may be beneficial against’ COVID-19

A world-renowned artist recently questioned whether smoking provides immunity against COVID-19. No one knows for certain.

cigarettes smoking clovid-19

Image via Adobe Stock

Earlier this month, world-renowned artist David Hockney wrote the following letter to the Daily Mail. He hinted that smoking may result in immunity to COVID-19. Hockney explains:

I used to joke that being a smoker in Malibu was the equivalent of being a non-smoker in Pasadena. They used to have very bad pollution there.

Could it not be that smokers have developed an immune system to this virus? With all these figures coming out, it’s beginning to look like that to me. I’m serious — and remember cigars and cigarettes are vegan.

The publication initially thought nothing of it, but Daily Mail’s senior health reporter has since done some digging and feel that Hockney might be on to something.

Disclaimer: It’s difficult to asses how well smoking has been recorded or studied and the effect it may have during a pandemic, simply because we still know so little about the novel coronavirus.

Smoking and COVID-19 immunity: Fake news or real?

A study by Konstantinos Farsalinos and Anastasia Barbouni from the University of West Attica in Greece and Raymond Niaura from New York University was published on QEIOS on 4 April 2020.

Their research paper – Smoking, Vaping and Hospitalisation for COVID-19can be viewed here or on Research Gate. Farsalinos is a cardiologist and research fellow at the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens.

Dr Barbouni is the Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health, also in Athens. Raymond Niaura is a psychologist and an expert on tobacco dependence and treatment, as well as substance use and addiction to alcohol.

“No greater chance” of being hospitalised

According to the researchers, their study was to examine the “prevalence of current e-cigarette use and smoking among hospitalised patients with COVID-19.

They explained that the preliminary analysis “does not support the argument that current smoking is a risk factor for hospitalisation for COVID-19”, and added:

“Instead, these consistent observations, which are further emphasised by the low prevalence of current smoking among COVID-19 patients in the US (1.3%), raises the hypothesis that nicotine may have beneficial effects on COVID-19”.

That figure comes from the United States’ Centers for Disease Control which tested more than 7 000 people who tested positive for COVID-19.

Smoking: Conflicting points of view

They found that only 1.3 % were smokers, compared to the 14% of all Americans who smoke. The study also found that the smokers stood no greater chance of ending up in hospital or ICU. However, The reasons for this are unclear. 

It should also be noted that researchers emphasise the correlation could be due to unrelated aspects. Smokers could be dying before they are admitted to hospital, or perhaps smokers are not classified correctly in hospital records.

That said, the Public Health England and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still urges people to stop smoking in a bid to safeguard against the virus.

What does the WHO say about smoking?

Be that is it may, the World Health Organisation warns that smokers “are likely to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 as the act of smoking means that fingers and contaminated fingers are in contact with lips”.

Therefore, the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth increases. In addition, smokers may already have reducted lung capacity.

Smoking products such as water pipes often involve the sharing of mouth pieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of COVID-19 in communal and social settings. Conditions that increase oxygen needs or reduce the ability of the body to use it properly will put patients at higher risk of serious lung conditions such as pneumonia.

In addition, other professionals maintain that smoking is harmful, even more so when coupled with a worldwide pandemic. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said “smoking makes the impact of a coronavirus worse”.

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Also read – Lockdown: Hope for smokers, as cigarette ban lifted in several districts