Everyone knows that smoking tobacco causes damages to the lungs and airways that may lead to a range of illnesses including severe respiratory problems. The novel coronavirus COVID-19 is also known to attack the respiratory system, which explains why smokers are at greater risk for more serious COVID-19 symptoms. However, last month the New England Journal of Medicine researched the effects of smoking on Chinese coronavirus patients. Around 26% of the population in China are smokers, but the research also showed that just 12.6% of 1,000 people (126) infected in China were smokers.
In more recent studies made by the Pasteur Institute, 700 people were tested in one of the harder-hit areas in the French commune Crépy-en-Valois. The tests found that only 7.2% of smokers among the adults tested were infected, while a larger 28% of non-smokers were infected. These results seem to correspond with the results from the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital in Paris. 480 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were questioned, 350 of which were hospitalized due to their symptoms, while the other 130 patients with less serious symptoms were allowed to go home. They found that of those admitted to the hospital whose median age was 65 years old, only 4.4% were regular smokers. Among those released home, with a median age of 44 years old, only 5.3% were smokers.
A team led by Dr. Jean-Pierre Changeux, a neurobiologist at the Pasteur Institute, reviewed the study and speculates that nicotine in the tobacco might be what is stopping the virus from reaching cells in the body helping stop its spread. Dr. Changeux explains “that nicotine attaches to cell receptors used by the coronavirus, thereby preventing the virus from attaching."
Should I start smoking?
These results absolutely do not mean you should go to your nearest convenience store to buy a pack of cigarettes and start smoking, as smoking tobacco can cause other serious life-threatening illnesses and diseases. Studies also show that smokers are in fact at a much higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms that may lead to death if infected. Both US and French researchers advise smokers to quit smoking as soon as possible, because COVID-19 primarily attacks the lungs which are more than likely already damaged in smokers anyway. Sticking to our vapes may be the best thing we can do as we inhale our own form of nicotine in a much safer manner.
The French researchers are waiting for authorization from the French health authorities to begin clinical trials of nicotine patches of various doses on frontline health workers and hospital patients to see if their theory is true. Doctors had noticed a rather low number of smokers among patients being treated for COVID-19. This study will be able to further help monitor infection rates in those with nicotine and those without.
What are your thoughts on these studies? Leave a comment with your thoughts below.
Steiner, R. (2020). This new evidence shows nicotine might prevent smokers from contracting the coronavirus. Retrieved 1 May 2020, from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-new-evidence-shows-nicotine-might-prevent-smokers-from-catching-coronavirus-2020-04-24
Samuel, H. (2020). Smokers 'four times less likely' to contract Covid-19, prompting nicotine patch trials on patients. Retrieved 1 May 2020, from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/04/23/smokers-four-times-less-likely-contract-covid-19-prompting-nicotine/
Willsher, K. (2020). French researchers to test nicotine patches on coronavirus patients. Retrieved 1 May 2020, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/22/french-study-suggests-smokers-at-lower-risk-of-getting-coronavirus
Does nicotine help against the new coronavirus? | DW | 27.04.2020. (2020). Retrieved 1 May 2020, from https://www.dw.com/en/does-nicotine-help-against-the-new-coronavirus/a-53260336