The relationship between smoking and COVID-19
May 08, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

The relationship between smoking and COVID-19

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COVID-19 continues to ravage through nations and keep societies under lockdown, and as the fight against it progresses, new findings are being made. One recent discovery was regarding the relationship between smoking and COVID-19 – smoking appears to cause more severe and fatal cases of coronavirus. Shifa4U recommends that you stop smoking or at least avoid it for now, as it can put you at high risk of catching or potentially suffering from the COVID-19. If you do happen to get COVID-19 or observe some symptoms of it, Shifa4U has online consultant facilities that can help you.

What does the research say?

Initially, Chinese scientists reviewed the evidence and passed a verdict saying that acute smokers are 14 times more likely to suffer from COVID-19. This made sense because the virus attacks the respiratory system, and smoking compromises it. COVID-19 infections start with the ACE2 receptor, which is a protein that is present on the surface of cells in the body, including the respiratory tracts. The coronavirus, known scientifically as SARS-CoV-2, uses these receptors to sustain itself in the body. It binds itself to these proteins by releasing its genetic material into these cells, allowing it to reproduce and multiply. It is theorized that those who smoke, according to preliminary research, have a greater number of ACE2. This means they carry a greater number of vehicles for the virus to use to spread. In addition, there is evidence from China, which is published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showing that smokers suffer more severely if they contract the virus. 12.3% of smokers required intensive care after contracting the virus, as compared to 4.7% of nonsmokers who were admitted to ICUs.

However, research performed in France has arisen that posits that tobacco and nicotine use may be useful in preventing people from contracting the virus. This was prompted by statistics that showed that although there is a larger proportion of smokers in France, there is a lower proportion of smokers in those who contracted the virus, with 8.5% of the afflicted being smokers, while there are overall 25.4% smokers in France. Similar results were found in China, wherein 12.6% out of 1000 afflicted people were smokers, while the population consists of 28% smokers. French neurobiologist Jean-Pierre Changeux posited that nicotine might be preventing the virus from reaching receptor cells, as well as reducing the overreaction of the immune system.

The international health community rejected the French research and claims, citing that it is non-scientific. For now, the only facts that exist are that smoking kills nearly 50% of the people who take it up. Secondly, WHO has discussed how smoking is a risky activity as the cigarettes, cigarette packs and packaging, and hands may be contaminated. Smokers hold these cigarettes and put them up to their mouths, which poses an added risk. Moreover, smokers have reduced lung capacity and oxygen, which may lead to worsening of conditions that impact the respiratory tracts, including COVID-19. This leads to more risks of contracting the virus in terms of probability, as well as worsening the condition if it is contracted. For these reasons, and since precaution is better than cure applies even more to a presently incurable virus, it is advised to limit smoking, much like the 30,000 people in the UK who recently quit.


Based on the information above, it is highly advised that you stop smoking until the coronavirus outbreak is over. Still, you should aim to stop smoking altogether as it can shorten your lifespan and life expectancy by 11 years. Additionally, if you tend to experience mild symptoms of coronavirus, please stay at home and isolate yourself for 14 days, and if you begin to experience more severe symptoms especially breathing difficulty, you can get yourself tested with Shifa4U.


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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.