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Although things seem to be improving as more and more COVID-19 vaccinations are dispersed, a recent study backs what many experts have been saying since the start of the pandemic: Smoking and COVID-19 don’t mix.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability in the United States. It accounts for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths. That’s because cigarette smoke affects much more than your lungs. Even one puff of smoke not only travels through the lungs, but gets into your bloodstream and can impact every organ in your body.
So, let’s take a closer look at what this most recent study on the link between smoking and COVID-19 found, why the results are so important, and what you can do if you’re a smoker who is trying to quit.
In this most recent study, published in the journal “Thorax,” researchers looked to see if there is an association between tobacco smoking, the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 and the severity of illness.
More than 2.4 million people were included in the study. Participants, whose average age was 43, were asked to use an app to track their daily smoking habits and medical conditions. This included 14 potential COVID-19 symptoms and hospital attendance.
Researchers were most interested in symptoms of COVID-19 during the pandemic defined as fever, new persistent cough and breathlessness, and their association with current smoking habits.
Among those who reported testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, smokers had a higher symptom burden and were more likely to need to attend hospital, compared with non-smokers.
Additionally, smokers were more likely to report the ‘classic triad’ of symptoms suggesting COVID-19 (cough, fever, breathlessness) and also more likely to report more symptoms, a surrogate for disease severity.
Researchers say the pattern of associations between symptoms reported did not vary between smokers and non-smokers. They say that this suggests that their findings cannot be explained by pre-existing smoking-related symptoms.
A recent, much smaller Cleveland Clinic study found similar results. They looked at the effect of heavy smoking on nearly 7,000 people and found that people who smoke have a higher risk of hospitalization and death from the virus.
According to the World Health Organization, smoking poses another risk when it comes to contracting COVID-19, or any other virus for that matter.
Their researchers say tobacco smokers, which includes cigarettes, water pipes, bidis, cigars, and heated tobacco products may be more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 because the act of smoking involves contact of fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) with the lips.
This increases the possibility of transmission of viruses from hand to mouth.
Smoking water pipes, also known as shisha or hookah, often involve the sharing of mouthpieces and hoses, which could facilitate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in communal and social settings.
It’s never too late to quit smoking. If you quit smoking, you’ll not only decrease the risks associated with getting sick, there are other benefits as well. They include extending the length of your life by reducing your risk of developing chronic disorders like heart disease.
There are actually two ways in which smoking can affect the heart. In the short term, it can cause your blood pressure to rise and make the platelets in your blood stickier. This will increase your risk of blood clots forming, and consequently, your chances of having a stroke.
The good news is that the number of people who smoke appears to be going down. The CDC reports that from 20.9% (nearly 21 of every 100 adults) in 2005 to 14.0% (14 of every 100 adults) in 2019.
You can also use our guide “Reversing The Harmful Effects of Smoking.” In it, you’ll find a long list of benefits and ways you can get on the road to quitting. Here’s to a healthier you.