Smoking and COVID-19

12 Apr Smoking and COVID-19

Does current smoking status increase individual’s risk of developing COVID-19 symptoms?1

Active smoking is a current worldwide health burden on various disease development (such as heart disease, respiratory illnesses), even more implicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to understand the link between developing the classic COVID-19 symptoms (fever, shortness of breath and cough) and more substantial, however, less common symptoms (such as loss of smell, diarrhea, and chest pain).

Hopkinson et al (2021) study has compiled data to associate individual current smoking status and development of COVID-19 symptoms. The study has utilised the Zoe COVID-19 Symptom Study app widely used by 2.4 million users in United Kingdom to report their symptoms and whether they had been tested for COVID-19 between March and April 2020. Of the 2.4 million users, 7,123 users have tested positive and 7.4% of these users have reported to be current smokers. The individuals testing positive and are current smokers were identified to have a higher chance of developing more than 10 symptoms associated with COVID-19 compared to non-smokers. In addition, the severity of illness and hospitalisation rates were greater in smokers than non-smokers.

The study could be utilised as an important tool in a more widespread message for cigarette smoking cessation. Not only would the message relate to the current global COVID-19 pandemic, but would aim to decrease the healthcare burden in treatment of long-term cigarette smoking complications such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and many forms of cancer. Nevertheless, the current smoking rates in Australia has declined by 12.8% since 20162.

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1Hopkinson, N. et al (2021). Current smoking and COVID-19 risk: results from a population symptom app in over 2.4 million people. Thorax. Published online: 05 January 2021. Doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2020-216422

2Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021). How many people smoke? Tobacco Smoking. Retrieved from: Accessed on: 28.02.2021.