Are Smokers at Greater Risk of Contracting Covid-19?

Published March 29th, 2020 - 06:43 GMT
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
Highlights
Former smokers appeared to be more at risk than current smokers

Are people who smoke more susceptible to the highly-infectious coronavirus (Covid-19)? The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have said that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable to Covid-19 compared to non-smokers.

A study by Chinese doctors on 99 patients affected by Covid-19 found that chain smokers were more at risk of dying by the disease than elderly people. "Smoking is also associated with the heightened activity of ACE2in the lungs - an enzyme that makes patients more vulnerable to Covid-19," the ECDC stated, citing the study conducted by Guoshuai Cai, from the University of South Carolina.

It added that former smokers appeared to be more at risk than current smokers because the enzyme was more active in different cells within the body of former smokers.

Dr Amr Hassan, physician at Burjeel Medical City, said Covid-19 is proving to be particularly dangerous for people with underlying conditions, such as heart or lung diseases."While there have not been many studies investigating the direct links between smoking and Covid-19, we do know is that smoking and vaping suppress immune function and harm lung health."

Citing a recent study from China on patients diagnosed with Covid-19-related pneumonia, Dr Hassan said: "The study found that the chances of disease progression (including death) were 14 times higher among smokers than non-smokers.We know that some smokers who develop common colds have coughs that last for weeks to months, but non-smokers recover quickly. Smoking is also the number one risk factor for lung cancer, responsible for over 80 per cent of lung cancer deaths. Given all additional risks with Covid-19, we would encourage smokers and vapers to stop right away."

Dr J. S. Raj Kumar, general and laparoscopic surgeon at Medstar - Dubai and Thumbay Hospital Fujairah, also affirmed that smokers were at an increased risk of contracting Covid-19. "Firstly, smokers tend to touch their lips and mouth much more frequently, compared to non-smokers, putting them at a higher risk. Secondly, looking at the scientific evidence and researches endorsed by the WHO, it is clear that smokers are in greater danger of contracting the disease. Also, the severity seems to be much higher."

He added that smoking increases the age of the lungs. "Those in their 30s or 40s, who have been smoking for 10 to 20 years, have lungs similar to 60 to 70-year-olds. This makes them more vulnerable to the attack of Covid-19."

"As smokers have compromised lung function, the need for mechanical ventilation, admission to ICU and subsequent death are all higher in this group. The window of opportunity has now been presented to smokers - to quit this terrible habit."

Why smokers are more vulnerable

>Chain smokers at more risk of dying by the disease than elderly people.
>Smoking heightens the activity of ACE2 in the lungs - an enzyme that makes patients more vulnerable to Covid-19

>Covid-19 is proving to be particularly dangerous for people with underlying conditions, such as heart or lung diseases

>Chances of disease progression (including death)14 times higher among smokers than non-smokers

>Smokers tend to touch their lips and mouth much more frequently with their fingers compared to non-smokers, putting them at a higher risk

>Severity of disease among smokers much higher

>Those in their 30s or 40s, who have been smoking for 10 to 20 years, have lungs that are similar to 60 to 70-year-olds, making them vulnerable to the attack of Covid-19

>Smokers have compromised lung function, hence the need for mechanical ventilation, admission to ICU and subsequent death are all higher in this group

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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