The Cyprus national addictions authority said on Monday that smokers who test positive for coronavirus are at a higher risk than non-smokers although international reports seem to have said the opposite.
The authority cited five studies on smoking and Covid-19 after a number of media sites broadcast that smoking cigarettes might protect people from being infected with the virus.
Citing the World Health Organisation, the authority said that smoking severely affects the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Hence, smokers who tested positive to Covid-19 are more susceptible to bacterial and viral lung infections.
“Research data from China, where the pandemic began, showed that people with health problems in these two areas, caused by tobacco use, were at higher risk of developing severe symptoms of the Covid-19 (Lawrence et al., 2019),” the authority said.
Articles attempting to show the opposite are mainly based on assumptions not yet substantiated, warned the authority. It added that any link between the authors of such articles and the tobacco industry should be taken into account as it questions their credibility.
Conclusions about the relationship between smoking and the Covid-19 virus are still premature, however, the announcement cites fives recent studies by independent researchers that show that:
- Among people infected with Covid-19 and died, 9% were smokers compared to 4% of those who survived (Zhou et al., 2020).
- Among the serious cases of Covid-19 patients, 3.4% were smokers and 6.9% were former-smokers, in contrast to mild cases where no patients were smokers and 3.7% were former-smokers (Zhang et). al., 2020).
- In a population study of 1,099 patients with Covid-19, it was found that among patients with severe symptoms, 16.9% were current smokers and 5.2% were former smokers, as opposed to patients with mild symptoms where 11.8% were current smokers and 1.3% were former smokers. In the group of patients who either needed mechanical support, or admission to ICU or died, 25.5% were smokers and 7.6% were former smokers (Guan et al., 2020).
- Among patients with severe symptoms, 16.9% were smokers and 5.2% were former smokers, while the presence of a history of smoking was a risk factor for disease progression (Liu et al., 2020).
- Finally, a systematic review of the above studies on Covid-19 concluded that smokers were 2.4 times more likely to be admitted to the ICU, and / or needed mechanical support, or were more likely to die than non-smokers. (Vardavas & Nikitara, 2020).
However France on Friday restricted sales of nicotine substitutes after research published suggested nicotine may offer some protection against infection by the new coronavirus.
The Health Ministry said in a decree it aimed to avoid a shortage of products such as nicotine patches for patients and to prevent the wrong use, and overuse, of substitutes used to fight nicotine dependence.
“A team of French researchers has written an interesting scientific article which tends to show that there are fewer patients in the population consuming nicotine – and therefore smokers – than in the rest of population,” health minister Olivier Veran told members of parliament.
“But beware, this does not mean that tobacco protects. Tobacco kills,” Veran said.
He was referring to a study by researchers at Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris that showed that smokers were less infected with the virus than other people. It also showed that nicotine could prevent the virus from entering cells.