Health Topics

Smoking increases complications when infected with COVID-19

SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that affects people with respiratory diseases such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or pulmonary fibrosis more severely. Some of these diseases have been caused by smoking over many years. We can therefore conclude that the currently smoking population is more susceptible to the virus or to manifesting symptoms more severely.  

Image: Flickr A. Atehortua

In the current COVID-19 pandemic situation, health authorities have made numerous recommendations to citizens with the aim of stopping the spread of the virus. So far, these recommendations have focused mainly on key actions to avoid contagion, such as coughing inside elbows, washing hands well, and maintaining a safe distance between people of between one and two metres.   

Although SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory virus and therefore affects people with diseases such as COPD caused by smoking more seriously, no mention has been made so far regarding smoking to prevent this disease.  

The relationship between smoking as a possible facilitator for the spread of the virus, or as a trigger in the aggravation of the disease, is only now beginning to emerge as a result of the initial studies into this area.  

 Research studying the effects of smoking on diseases similar to COVID-19 found that smoke exhaled when smoking increases the transmission rate. Additionally, smoking exacerbates respiratory tract infections. There is not yet enough data to draw definitive conclusions, but the observations made so far indicate that the same problem exists for COVID-19. An article from Guangzhou University, which collected information from more than 1,000 laboratories in China, shows that 12% of COVID-19 patients who required intensive care were smokers, compared to 4.7% of non-smokers.  

Furthermore, mortality from COVID-19 in China is higher in men than in women. Some researchers believe that this might be related to smoking, since in China, this habit is highly differentiated by sex: half of the males in the population smoke and only 3% of females do.  

 After analysing the clinical case studies of COVID-19, an article was recently published in the British Medical Journal, in which various researchers from University College London recommended that the messages transmitted to the population by the authorities be changed. Experts believe that there is sufficient evidence to include the recommendation to stop smoking.  

Additionally, it is believed that the public’s general concern about the current situation could foster an emotional state that facilitates learning. People would be more predisposed to changing different habits and behaviours and that now could therefore be an opportunity to encourage this change in smokers.  

For all these reasons, without forgetting, of course, that giving up smoking has multiple health benefits, it is believed that now could be a good opportunity for health authorities to launch anti-smoking campaigns.